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Apple's HealthKit to Face Privacy and Regulatory Challenges

Apple's HealthKit to Face Privacy and Regulatory Challenges

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Apple may face privacy and regulatory challenges with regards to its upcoming iOS 8 HealthKit feature, reports Reuters.

The company has reportedly been discussing how its HealthKit service will work at Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins as well as with Allscripts, a competitor to electronic health records provider Epic Systems.

Apple wants HealthKit to become a 'lynchpin' in its broader push into mobile healthcare. It already has partnerships with Nike, Epic, and the Mayo Clinic. Soon dozens of major health systems that use Epic will be able to integrate data from HealthKit into Epic's personal health record, called MyChart.

Kaiser Permanente is also said to be testing apps that leverage HealthKit, and could talk to Apple about a more formal partnership.

While these advancements are promising, Apple will likely face challenges with safeguarding consumer privacy. It will also have to work with requirements of regulators at federal agencies. At least half a dozen government offices are said to have a hand in some area of mobile health.

HealthKit relies on the ability of users to share data. But depending on how that data is used, its partners – and potentially even Apple - may be subject to the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. HIPAA protects personally-identifiable health information - such as a medical report or hospital bill - stored or transmitted by a "covered entity," like a care provider or health plan. Patient-generated information from a mobile app, for instance, has to be protected once the data is given to a covered entity or its agent.

Joy Pritts, the former chief privacy officer for the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare IT (ONC), said Apple may need to assess its responsibility to safeguard data with each partnership. "It is really difficult for consumers to know if their health information is protected by HIPAA because it’s so dependent on the specific facts," Pritts said.

To help it with these hurdles, Apple has hired and consulted numerous health experts and attorneys. Its officials have even visited the FDA and ONC. Reportedly, Apple wants to ensure that providers, not itself, are responsible for adhering to privacy requirements.

More details in the full report linked below. If you want to learn more about Apple's Health app, click here.

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