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New Apple app helps vets

VA and tech giant work to integrate vet med records

Veterans will be able to review their health records via a new app on their iPhones. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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In partnership with the U.S. Veteran's Administration (VA), Apple, Inc. recently announced that the Health app included with every iPhone will soon allow veterans to sync with certain types of medical records.

Beginning this summer, the "Health Records on iPhone" feature will let veterans populate their devices with information on allergies, health conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vital signs.

Indications are that veterans who have tested the feature are pleased with it.

"Most of the comments about this have generally been positive," Terrence Hayes, of the VA's Office of Public & Intergovernmental Affairs, wrote in an email.

The collaboration between Apple and the VA means that patients will have a single, integrated snapshot of their health profile when they need it. All health records data -- whether from the VA or from civilian healthcare providers -- will be encrypted and protected by the user's iPhone passcode, Touch ID or Face ID.

"When patients have better access to their health information, they have more productive conversations with their physicians," said Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operations officer, in a statement.

Apple first introduced its Health Records feature in 2017 with the iOS11.3 update. More than 100 medical providers and hospitals have signed on thus far to use the feature.

This new technology broadens the range of service veterans can expect and will have a significant impact on veterans nationwide and in the Puget Sound region.

"It's truly an honor to contribute to the improved healthcare of America's heroes," wrote Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive officer.

"We have great admirations for veterans, and we're proud to bring a solution like Health Records on iPhone to the veteran community."

The largest medical system in the country, the VA currently serves more than nine million veterans. 

"In the Puget Sound region, there are 265,000 eligible veterans, of which 143,500 are enrolled in the VA," continued Hayes.

There is a bit of history behind this advancement.

The VA launched VA Blue Button in 2010, a feature on My HealtheVet, which opens a digital door that allows veterans to go online and download copies of their healthcare records.

Last year, the VA announced the Veterans Health Application Programming Interface (Veterans Health API). This process allows veterans to access their medical records on their mobile devices or on their web browser.

Then came Apple with its new Health Records on iPhone feature.

"By building upon the Veterans Health API, we're raising the bar in collaborating with private sector organizations to create and deploy innovative digital products for veterans," wrote VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, in a press release.

According to Hayes, the VA asked a number of veterans to test the new feature and will continue to do so until its introduction this summer.

Army veteran and University Place resident Roger King seconded that notion.

"I think this feature is a good idea; whatever helps all veterans is a step in the right direction," he said.

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