Apple‘s latest update could make keeping track of your medical records a whole lot easier.
The company’s most recent release, iOS 11.3 beta, includes a major addition to the Apple Health app: a Health Records feature that lets customers pull up their medical records on their phones whenever they want.
Although some hospitals already have their own apps to help patients keep their records handy (such as MyChart from Mount Sinai in New York City), this feature combines information from multiple participating hospitals and clinics and combines that with the data users have already logged in the app to create a kind of streamlined hub for their medical records.
“Our goal is to help consumers live a better day,” Apple COO Jeff Williams said in a statement. “We’ve worked closely with the health community to create an experience everyone has wanted for years—to view medical records easily and securely right on your iPhone.”
At this point, only an assortment of medical institutions have agreed to work with Apple and make their patients’ medical records available through this feature. But they include major hospitals such as Johns Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, and UC San Diego Health (full list here).
There aren’t too many options for keeping all of your medical records neatly organized in one place.
Patients typically have had to log into separate websites or call separate offices to get certain kinds of medical information (think: immunization history, lab results, prescription records, allergies, and the like)—that is, if they knew how to log into those websites at all. (I can’t be the only one who’s walked into a medical appointment with zero knowledge of my records and how to access them, right?) Now, patients from participating hospitals and clinics can find all their records in one place—the Apple Health app.
Having this kind of information at the ready is important for your routine care (to know when it’s time to re-up your tetanus shot, for instance), but it’s also crucial in the event of an emergency or if you find yourself in the midst of a serious health crisis. For instance, having the fact that you’re allergic to penicillin readily available in your Medical ID can ensure that you’re not given that medication by mistake in an emergency situation. And staying on top of all your insurance info, appointments, referrals, test results, and bills is essential when you’re working with your doctor to find a diagnosis.
However, this functionality is, obviously, only available to people who have iPhones. If you’re on Android, you’re stuck with individual hospital apps and third party apps for now. (RIP Google Health.)
According to Apple, the data you put into Health Records is protected. But there’s no way to make sure it’s 100 percent safe.
Per the press release from Apple, the data will be encrypted and protected via the passcode on your phone. But Michelle De Mooy, director of the Privacy & Data Project and the Center for Democracy and Technology, tells SELF that even with these measures, it’s “not possible” for Apple (or any company) to mitigate every security risk that accompanies this kind of data storage.
“Phishing attacks remain a threat, as do lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised devices,” De Mooy said in an email, which are all possibilities when you’re keeping any sensitive information on anydevice. “And of course, researchers uncover new security vulnerabilities on a daily basis,” De Mooy says.
Whether or not these risks are worth taking is totally up to you—what matters most is that you have a system for keeping yourself healthy that works for you.