Apple Health Records

Last month, Allina Health announced its support for Apple Health Records, a beta feature that allows patients to access their medical data through Apple’s health app. The idea is for patients to access all their medical information in one place, though it requires providers to be linked to the Apple system. (Jacob Swanson/Faribault Daily News)

One of Apple’s latest developments could have an impact on area residents.

Apple Health Records, currently in beta testing, has received support from Allina Health, which owns District One Hospital in Faribault and Owatonna Hospital. Apple Health Records aims to combine medications, immunizations and lab results from multiple institutions in one place. For example, if a patient visited both an Allina hospital or clinic and another supporting institution, their records from each could be accessed in one app.

Over 200 institutions have supported health records on iPhone. Last month, Allina became the third in Minnesota, joining Family Foot and Ankle Clinic in the north metro area and Winona Health, according to Apple.

Giving patients access to their medical records online is a relatively new trend, but it’s becoming the norm.

Allina Health Director of Digital Experience Chris DuFresne said many health care companies began moving toward electronic medical records in the mid-2000s. More and more, patients are gaining access to their health records online.

Allina has an online portal where patients can review their medical information in addition to receiving a paper copy, emailed record or CD/DVD copy. Northfield Hospital & Clinics offers online access to medical records through its online portal MyHealth Info and the MHealth mobile app but does not currently support Apple Health Records.

“What we really are trying to do in the digital space is help patients and consumers in general connect with healthcare in many different ways based upon their preferences. If you look at other industries such as retail, people are interacting more and more with retailers, not just in person, but online,” DuFresne said. “We’re seeing the same in healthcare because as the consumers see how we can interact with organizations in other industries, consumers are expecting a similar ability to interact in other industries such as healthcare.”

With 45.2 percent of smartphone users using an iPhone in the United States, according to Statista, Apple hopes it’s positioned to streamline the process of accessing medical records.

To access your health records on your iPhone, open the health app and click “Health Records.”

A growing trend

Allina External Communications Advisor Tim Burke said supporting Apple Health Records is part of Allina’s goal “to meet the patient where they are.”

Last month, Allina also launched a program called OpenNotes, which allows patients to review their doctors’ notes online.

“Patients are familiar with going online to access portions of their electronic health record for general medical information, such as scheduling an appointment, viewing lab results or [viewing] medical history,” Allina Senior Vice President Tim Sielaff said in a release. “But doctor’s notes are the thread that ties together many pieces of information in the health record.”

The trend of making health records more accessible only figures to increase.

“The way we look at it is as patients, we own the information about us,” DuFresne said. “Allina recognizes that and is trying to empower patients to be able to access their information, which would include doctors’ notes about their care.”

DuFresne started as director of digital experience almost four years ago. In his time there, he feels Allina has been on the cutting edge of technology.

“We have had a strong focus on this effort for the past two to three years and beyond. Due to that focus, I feel that we’ve made a lot of great progress,” he said. “We are learning from other health systems in other areas of the United States and collaborating with them to understand what they’re doing and sharing what we’re doing with them. From those conversations, I would say that where we are and where we’re going is ahead of the curve, if you will, in health care and that is a testament to Allina continuing to strive to meet our consumers and patients where they are and where their patients are.”

While Allina also offers online visits for common ailments like sinus infections, trips to the hospital aren’t going away.

“It’s important to note that it’s not intended to replace that physical experience you have with healthcare and relationship with your provider, it’s really the two helping augment and add to that,” DuFresne said.

Reach Reporter Jacob Swanson at 507-333-3129 or on Twitter @FDNjacob.

©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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