Apple’s Newest Acquisition Will Put Your Medical Records at Your Fingertips

Imagine having a medical emergency while you are on vacation, far from home and far from your usual healthcare service providers. You have a history of diabetes, cancer, hypertension, or other potentially complicating condition, and you are rushed to the hospital after collapsing on the beach. How do you, how can you, allow emergency room doctors access to your medical records?

Apple just acquired a company called Gliimpse. Gliimpse is a technology start-up enabling “all 317 million people in America to liberate their health by liberating their health data.”Gliimpse empowers patients to control their medical records, allowing them to share data from their mobile device. The platform, additionally, provides patients the ability to control the medical records particular physicians are able to access. This control of records includes the ability to revoke permissions after the patient is treated.

Applying this control of health records to the example above, you would be able to share your pertinent health records with the emergency room physician near the vacation beach in real time. After the treatment is complete, and you return home, you will be able to revoke permission for the emergency room physician to access your records and share the new emergency records with your primary health care service provider.

Apple has made previous forays into the medical records space. Apple launched a couple open source initiatives, called CareKit and ResearchKit. The former focuses on patient data while the latter focuses on letting medical researchers gather data. The Silicon Valley Company intended these initiatives to “put data into the hands of patients.” Because the initiatives are open source, Apple is relying on independent software developers to design specific apps.

Apple’s acquisition of Gliimpse will allow Apple to develop its own program in house, providing not only a larger perspective than developers focused on one or two applications of the initiatives, but also potentially providing much more robust security.

Smartphone apps, or other iterations of services designed to collect and store electronic medical records, have been plagued by claims of insufficient security. A number of smartphone apps, for example, that collect and track basic health information such as fitness trackers, are not subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The encryption, and vis-à-vis privacy concerns, related to these apps is suspect at best, placing the user’s personal health information at risk of being hacked.

Similarly, the mere transition from paper records to electronic records poses security threats. Per document management company Iron Mountain,

As with any online digital format, concerns of breach exist. Internet hackers possess a digital power that frightens individuals looking to conceal sensitive data. There have been cases in which medical information has been accessed by unauthorized users. While this does not occur all too frequently, the occurrences are enough to plant some cynicism in the minds of physicians and patients. These are valid concerns.

If confidential records end up in the hands of a person not privy to the information, the consequences can be overwhelming. Breach of medical records could lead to identity theft, which can destroy a person’s finances, credit and reputation.

According to its website, Gliimpse tries to ameliorate data vulnerabilities by using a higher standard of encryption than most banks. Add Gliimpse’s integration of strong encryption technologies into its platform with Apple’s well-known dedication to consumer privacy and the marriage of the two companies seems to be a harbinger of good things to come.

Complete portability for medical records should provide physicians with the most accurate, up to date information needed to treat a patient. Putting the patient in charge of the data, and letting them provide physicians instant access to their records from a smartphone has long been a promise. Apple’s acquisition of Gliimpse will hopefully signal a focus on privacy and security the current industry greatly needs.

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