Apple Acquires Startup That Allows Users to Collect Their Own Health Record

| Analysis

Apple has acquired a startup called Gliimpse, according to Fast Company. Gliimpse’s technology is designed to allow users to collect and manage their own health record. It’s a direct reflection of CEO Tim Cook’s plans for the $9 trillion a year healthcare industry.

Apple with a big pile of money

Gliimpse

Gliimpse’s technology helps users gather their own health record across as many as a 1,000 different systems. While we have a right to that data—in part due to requirements in Obamacare—those systems all use different methods to store it. That makes getting it the difficult task, and Gliimpse was working on solving that problem.

Apple acknowledged the acquisition with its boilerplate statement: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Health Care

As mentioned, Tim Cook has said his company sees the healthcare industry as a major opportunity. It’s a huge industry around the world, at $9 trillion per year. In an unrelated interview with Fast Company, Mr. Cook said:

So if you don’t care about reimbursement, which we have the privilege of doing, that may even make the smartphone market look small.

Acquiring Gliimpse falls squarely in this strategy. The ability for Apple’s devices and services to collect, personalize, and share one’s medical records would be invaluable to many.

3 Comments Add a comment

  1. Bryan:

    This development is huge and could lead to a major transformation in patient management. Potentially. Maybe.

    Why not unequivocally? Let me explain.

    In wealthy and well-resourced settings like Western Europe, Japan, the UK and the US one of the greatest residual threats to health and survival is a disruption to continuity of care. Continuity of care involves routine and regular healthcare provision to a patient by a dedicated provider such that important healthcare needs are met without delay or interruption.

    There are two major reasons, among others, that disrupt continuity of care. One is patient behaviour, namely a patient seeking care from different providers that could be provided by one provider or doctor. This can lead to a disjointed and incomplete health care package. The other is infrastructural, namely the absence of a communication system between different healthcare providers. A person travelling on holiday who needs urgent care for a fractured tibia will be treated by a local provider, who does not have ready access to that patient’s records, and has to have that patient relate their past medical history or request records from their provider. This is not due to ‘doctor shopping’ or irregular healthcare seeking by a patient, but the normal consequence of someone needing care when they cannot see their routine provider.

    Having their records on their iPhone and at their disposal when they need it provides patients with tremendous freedom to seek care where they need it, as well as to be better informed about their health history and status, and potentially take a more active role in preserving it while maintaining continuity of care. All good.

    However good this may be, Apple potentially could, like Mozart, take this basic theme and build it into an immortal symphony by leveraging their many assets, notably AI. Here’s how. There are three features that would take mere records to a whole new and 21st Century level and disrupt current models of patient management and records use.

    Physician Mode:
    Simply handing a physician a tome of records, particularly when a patient is actively dying on the table, can be less than useful. That physician needs to know only the patient history and baseline health status relevant to the current illness. Now. Enter Physician Mode, a protocol that extracts the important events in that patient’s history and organises them in a standard format that reflects how physicians present patients to each other or extract relevant information from a knowledgable and reliable historian (such as an informed parent or spouse). Formatting the records into easily searchable bullet points organised by systems allows physicians to rapidly query for more information on things relevant to their immediate tasks, which could save precious life-saving minutes. But we can make it better still.

    Links to Providers and the Homing Beacon:
    As mentioned, Physician Mode organises health records into a standardised summary of relevant past medical history, using a ‘systems’ format, like respiratory, infectious, cardiac, etc. A physician presenting this to another physician would be able to prioritise that history according to the present illness. If the patient is having a heart attack, that physician would first describe that patient’s relevant cardiac history to his/her colleague. An AI is not likely, for the foreseeable future, to be able to know what that patient is suffering from, but it will organise the record summary by systems, and provide history relevant to that system beginning with the most recent. Under each of these bullet summaries, the record could provide links to the current (if known) or most recent healthcare providers in the record, enabling that health provider to quickly identify and contact that service for further assistance as needed. Another feature, Homing Beacon, is like its Star Trek counterpart. This is a button the physician can press that sends out a request for contact to that patient’s pre-identified current provider or service, without the physician having to comb through the record and figure out whom that is. Just press, and it transmits the present physician’s contact details to the primary care provider with a request for contact about the specified patient, so that they primary provider knows not only that this is about a patient undergoing emergency care, but specifically which patient. But we’re not even done yet.

    Patient Reminders:
    This is a tickler routine that combs through the patient’s records, and based on age and baseline health condition, will remind the patient about routine follow-ups and interventions. For example, immunisations for both the young and the elderly or those with special conditions, or mammograms based on gender and age and family history if the record has not been updated according to current guidelines for age related and seasonal routine care. Many patients simply fail to get these because they either forgot or never knew what they should get or when.

    All of these become a dynamic management tool for both the patient and the physician that could disrupt routine and emergency management for the better. At least, in my view.

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