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Apple vs. Epic: Appraising the apps

The race to create a user-friendly, mobile health portal is on.

Traditional electronic health record vendors like Epic and Cerner are being challenged by a heavyweight in consumerism: Apple.

"'Mobile' implies some degree of portability, and 'portal' implies that you have a window onto something—in this case, understanding your health," said Charu Juneja, director of business and behavioral design at the Dell Medical School's Design Institute for Health. "From what I've seen, nothing has done that."

The mobile experience between platforms varies greatly in form and function.

Apple's Health app will be familiar to any iOS user since it contains hallmarks of a contemporary Apple app: simple icons, varied type weights and sizes, rounded corners.

It's also more thumb-friendly, said Dr. Alistair Erskine, Geisinger Health's chief informatics officer. "In some of these portals, they just don't have the aesthetic of using a thumb on a smartphone screen," he said.

The Health app's functionality is both broader and more limited than portals made by the likes of Epic and Cerner. In their apps, for instance, patients can send messages to providers and schedule appointments, whereas in Apple's Health, they cannot.

But in Apple's Health app, patients can view all their lab results, medication lists, vitals, and other information from participating organizations—currently 39—regardless of the EHRs those organizations use. That's not possible right now with individual vendors' apps.

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Rachel Z. Arndt

Rachel Arndt covers technology for Project Japan. Her work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Quartz, Fast Company, and elsewhere. She has MFAs in nonfiction and poetry from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree from Brown.


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