Data Privacy Health and Apple: the evolution of personal healthcare records on your phone

Health data is some of the most sensitive data that any of us own, which goes to the very core of our being. So it goes without saying that the trust levels needed to allow someone else to access it should necessarily be higher than for other types of data, such as social.

And yet – in reality most of us operate an open door policy, every day of our lives, in a reasonably cavalier fashion. Whether it’s held locally at our doctor’s surgery, or centrally as part of our National Health Service (NHS) record in the UK, the truth is that, as with many other types of data, we don’t own and control the distribution or flow of this incredibly intimate information about us.

Happily, this is changing – and is at the forefront of patient centricity – putting users at the centre of their own treatment and records. We are doing this through offering our users access to their UK health data, which is about to go live soon, our work with the Icelandic government allowing citizens nationally to download key parts of their health data, and work in the US, where we now connect to over 200 healthcare providers, among other projects around the world.

Apple is on a similar path with its Health app, which allows users to store their own records on their devices, as it innovates and expands its presence in the healthcare sector.

After the data privacy uproars caused in recent months by other big tech companies such as Facebook and Google, it’s fair to say that trust in big tech and personal data protection has – rightly – taken a hammering.

But Apple, to give it its due, has always been a bit different, and stressed the user privacy primacy of both its iPhone and apps created for it, with CEO Tim Cook calling privacy ‘a fundamental human right’.

In a recent interview with the US NPR about the Health app, he said:  “People will look at this and feel that they can trust Apple. That’s a key part of anyone that you’re working with on your health.

Cook says Apple’s commitment to privacy is fundamentally about trust, not simply a marketing position: “It’s not the way we look at it in terms of advantages,” he says. “The reality is that I know for me, I want to do business with people that have my health data, people that I deeply trust.”

This is key to us here at as well – not just for health data, but for personal data of all kinds. As we wrote recently, trust is at the heart of so much for consumers, particularly around personal data and innovation, and we all benefit when it is high.

So trust in more well-known providers also helps open doors and raise awareness for others, such as, innovating in the same way but without (yet!) the same global profile.

The key thing is always for healthcare providers – and users – to know, without doubt, where they can trust highly-sensitive records to be held safely, securely and privately. And that is absolutely within