Sam Cavaliere, a technology technician from San Diego, considers himself healthy, although the 47-year-old admits, "I can still stand to lose some weight." Like many iPhone owners, he uses the Apple Health app to track his weight, his exercise routines and the number of steps he's performing in a day.
Now the application also stores his health records.
Since last March, Apple has a feature that allows users to store their medical records in their application. University of California San Diego Health, where Cavaliere sees his doctors, is one of more than 200 health care providers in the country using the health record function.
Cavaliere travels a lot for his work and he likes to keep track of his blood pressure. He is able to do this by using a special cuff related to the Health app.
And he likes the fact that the application keeps his medical records.
"When I go to the doctor, in addition to my records, I have the blood pressure results that I've taken myself," Cavaliere says. "And they can see that and compare it to what they do at the office, so as to get a bigger picture than they show up once or twice a year at the office."
The global health care sector is expected to reach $ 10 trillion by 2022. This is more important than the economy of all countries except the United States and China. Amazon, Google and Microsoft are some of the companies that are competing for a share of this pie in areas such as retail pharmacies, which use artificial intelligence for disease detection and healthy living applications.
And Apple too.
At a time when iPhone sales have slowed down and where many analysts are wondering if the best days of Apple's innovation are behind, the company has also innovated and expanded its presence in the health care sector. This is an area where the company's longstanding values in terms of privacy protection can give it an edge over its competitors – so it can withstand the scrutiny of the public.
Putting medical records into an application created by a large high-tech company requires trust. These records could list medications taken, treatments for illnesses, and visits to mental health providers. This is not the kind of information that most people would like to see an employer, an advertiser or an insurance company.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has vigorously defended privacy rights. More recently, he has spoken out against rival Google and Facebook companies for taking advantage of user data to sell advertisements.
In an interview with NPR, Cook said his company had avoided acquiring user data to sell advertisements. "People will look at this and feel that they can trust Apple," he says. "It's a key part of anyone with whom you work on your health."
Mr Cook said that Apple's privacy commitment was not just a marketing ploy. "It's not our way of seeing things in terms of benefits," he says. "In reality, I know that I want to do business with people who have my health data, people in whom I have deep trust."
Cavaliere, the technician from San Diego, says that Apple has managed to win his trust. "I do not get advertising for them, so I do not see them trying to monetize it," he says. Unlike other companies, he says, "I feel comfortable with the [Apple’s] do it and what they do. "
Dr. Chris Longhurst, chief information officer at UC San Diego Health, said that Apple's strong privacy values have allowed those in charge of the institution to to feel more comfortable. "Nothing is more important than preserving the confidentiality of the health information of our patients," he said.
Longhurst says that the iPhone helps protect the data. "This data has not entered the cloud," he says. "It resides only on the device of the user, is encrypted and is accessible only with the permission of the user." Medical records are also subject to strict federal privacy laws.
But Apple is far from having a perfect record in terms of privacy. In an era of scrutiny of all technology companies and their privacy issues, The Wall Street Journal found that several health and fitness apps available on iPhone are transmitting personal information, such as heart rate and menstrual data, to Facebook.
Apple says that these apps do not connect to medical records. He said that the applications were breaking his rules and that the developers had to solve the problem. those who will not be deleted from the App Store. It is important to note that users must give their permission before an application can access their health records.
Longhurst, of the San Diego University Health Center (UC San Diego), says the facility recommends patients be cautious. "There are potential risks," he says. "It's important for patients to be informed so they do not inadvertently share information with third parties, they would not want this information."
UC San Diego Health and other providers say they are ready to work with companies other than Apple. They simply need the assurance that the medical records of their patients will be safe and confidential, not as a food for advertisers.