Even as many healthcare systems now allow patients to download health records on their smartphone through an API (application programming interface), a new study finds that very few patients are taking advantage of the technologies. 

Published by JAMA Network Open, researchers found that the rate of unique users to download their health records via API on a month-over-month basis was virtually flat, and an average of only 0.7% of patients logged into their health system’s patient portal via API.

The study identified 12 geographically diverse U.S. health systems that had at least nine months experience with APIs, allowing patients time to download their electronic health information to their smartphones. Data was collected from March 2018 to December 2018, and of the 12 systems, 4 (33%) were located in the West, 4 (33%) in the Northeast, 3 (25%) in the Southeast, and 1 (8%) in the Midwest. 

Last year, Apple announced the launch of a personal health record (PHR) feature with iOS 11.3. Titled “Health Records,” the feature aggregates existing patient-generated data in the Health app with data from a user's electronic medical record if the user is a patient at a participating hospital. 

“It is anticipated that access to clinical data via Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources APIs and use of this data by smartphone applications will allow individuals to better understand and control their health data, more easily ensure data accuracy, shop for high-value health care services, avoid the need to repeatedly supply data for entry into each new health care provider’s electronic health record, and increase their participation in clinical research,” the authors wrote. “However, because this capability is new, few applications are currently able to access and use the data. In addition, there has been little effort by health care systems or health information technology vendors to market this new capability to patients, and there are not clear incentives for patients to adopt it."

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