Less than a month out from the scheduled release of the Apple iPhone 6, which will coincide with the introduction of Apple's next major mobile operating system, iOS 8, a vision is forming about what Apple is up to besides smartphone development.
One of the more anticipated new features of iOS 8 is its Health app, which is part of Apple's HealthKit API that will integrate Apple's software with third-party health monitoring apps for a one-stop health data-gathering place.
There is news Apple intends to play on a much bigger field with the Health app and HealthKit, though - they are seeking partnerships with major medical facilities across the country on data sharing and app development that could revolutionize the ways in which medical information is stored, accessed, shared and analyzed by doctors and hospitals.
One of the biggest issues in the health field is the incompatibility between differing systems for storing and sharing patient data. Doctors frequently complain these systems cannot "talk" to each other, which hinders access to at-times critical patient information that might be needed on an immediate basis.
Apple sees HealthKit as a solution to that problem; it's a uniter, not a divider.
Apple is speaking with health care providers Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic and Allscripts (an electronic health records provider). Apple already has partnerships in place with Nike, Epic (another electronic health records provider) and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic already has its own mobile apps that can transmit and receive real time data from patients and doctors.
As a result of Apple's partnership with Epic, "dozens of major health systems that use Epic's software will shortly be able to integrate health and fitness data from HealthKit into Epic's personal record, called MyChart."
Attempting to be the glue that binds all electronic health records and tracking across the vast array of systems that do not share compatibility is a Herculean task for Apple, which sees a path to establishing domination in the extremely profitable health records field. But healthcare software and wearable devices that track and transmit health data is arguably the fastest growing area of mobile technology, and Apple's competitors have their own agenda.
Apple's biggest obstacle toward achieving their goals will probably be a smorgasbord of regulatory hurdles. Laws that protect the privacy and exposure of patient medical data are profligate and extremely restrictive, for good reason. Apple has been keeping regulatory agencies at its side every step of the way, though, trying to ensure that HealthKit will face a minimum of stumbles along the way.