In a new partnership with VA, Apple will now access VA health records through numerous iPhone apps for veterans willing to accept convenience over privacy.

In an announcement, Apple said veterans will be able to view health records including allegories, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures, and vitals. The data will be viewable alongside Apple Watch data.

The medical information is supposedly secured through encryption and protected by the iPhone users passcode or biometric security features.

Apple will provide VA engineering support for the apps.

“Our goal is to empower people to better understand and improve their health, enabling them to view their medical information from multiple providers in one place easily and securely,” said Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of Technology. “We’re excited to bring this feature to veterans across the US.”

Tech Crunch says the partnership is a big win for Apple because the company can now reach 9 million veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system.

“We have great admiration for veterans, and we’re proud to bring a solution like Health Records on iPhone to the veteran community,” said Tim Cook, Apple CEO, in an announcement about the new partnership. “It’s truly an honor to contribute to the improved healthcare of America’s heroes.”

“When patients have better access to their health information, they have more productive conversations with their physicians,” added Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO. “By bringing Health Records on iPhone to VA patients, we hope veterans will experience improved healthcare that will enhance their lives.”

RELATED: Is Your DNA Safe?

One commenter was not convinced about the privacy of veterans’ records in this new deal.

Rob Whitey questioned, “Does Apple have access to the data, randomized or not? If so, this is wrong.”

Tech Crunch says Apple was in talks with VA about the app program dating back to November 2018, but the conversations started earlier.

In fact, talks with Apple to use certain apps linked to VA health care data first surfaced in ProPublica articles covering the Mar-a-Lago Crowd that was influencing agency decisionmaking and budgets.

RELATED: VA Shadow Rulers Had Sway Over Apple Talks

Talks apparently went sideways sometime after March 2018 when one of the deals went sideways for an emergency room tracker app. VA then reportedly started communications independent of the trio, which likely led to the apps being marketed to veterans now.

I hope veterans curious about the convenience pay special attention to the terms of use. Frequently, data in apps can be shared with other companies, insurance firms, other governments. You lose control of your data or the metadata once you grant access.

What will VA do to ensure our data is protected and confidential?

What will Apple do without data on its phones?

Will our data end up in any Apple servers located overseas including China?

Will other companies be allowed to scan our data for possible disability fraud detection? If the answer is “yes,” how will VA negligence, malpractice, and inaccurate record keeping be contemplated in those audits?

Will any of the data be shared with Google or Facebook? This triad of firms, Apple, Google, and Facebook, is moving quickly into health data. The information being shared for free is invaluable and will likely be used for marketing purposes.

Once your information is out there, you cannot corral it back into the barn.

Will the data be stored on the phone and backed up to the iCloud?

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Just like BlueButton that already exists.
    Wont stop VA from ‘doctoring’ Vet records to fit their false diagnosis.

    • Lem,

      In this instance, your comment serves only to show your ignorance of the issues involved (in either situation).

      Campaign slogans don’t bear on this topic.

  2. It is apparent that the VA cares little about anything veterans should be receiving as dictated by the Congressional Committee on VA (CCVA).The committee ‘demands’ (said very softly and without any gusto behind it) specific actions to the VA, VA laughs it off and does what it does best, which is ensure their staff in the ‘crystal palace’ gets their fat bonuses while veterans suffer. Yet, the VA continues to ask for more money and without oversight the CCVA approves it. Any questions asked during aired hearings that the VA does not want held against them becomes “that is a good question and I will have an answer to your office as soon as I gather that data”. See this time and again. VA sells veterans data off (while showing they are paying $111 million dollars to a Swedish firm) to show an expense, while allowing said company to add into that contract that they (the company) can use that data themselves.
    Did my fellow vets get a ‘permission slip’ to sign, authorizing your data to go to said company? I think not.

    Now the VA willingly sends our data off to Apple for an app? We have eHealthyvet access, each and every one of us. We also have the ‘blue button’ which allows for downloading our VA records. We also have the ability to request our C-File and should have a copy of our medical records. Why would we need ‘special’ access through apple? We have a phone that can get us that data online if need be.

    Proof that vets are second class citizens in the eyes of our country:
    -No politician has spoken up about the over spending on CO VA hospital (in the millions-apparently the VA needed to show proof of ‘using up that money’ before they lose the ability to ask for large amounts of money for the new fiscal year)
    -No politician has spoken up about the Directors at VA facilities who have been caught conducting illegal, unethical activities (fluffing numbers, falsifying gov records, staffing hospitals w/ residents instead of physicians at the ER), or that the VA maintains their employment by moving said Director(s) to another VA location OR (my favorite) quickly retires them before charges could be brought up.
    -No politician has spoken out about waste fraud and abuse by the VA with their excessive spending on artwork and furniture (and computers) which were found in a room, for years
    -No politician speaks up about the horrendous conditions some of these VA hospitals remain in
    -No politician holds VA accountable for veteran suicides, the money they ‘spend’ on advertising instead of investing that money into facilities and quality physicians that could help with mental health
    -None of the committee members made a peep at the VA after they DEMANDED the VA uses an “off the shelf” application to allow DOD and other entities access to EHRs. Nope, instead the VA continues to show a loss (their decision to use a company specific to this task, years after being told to take action, then shows that company ‘could not achieve the result’ but the VA shows they spent $25 million anyway to that company) with their ‘attempts’.

    Bottom line (which all of the above statements are based on factual data from the YouTube aired committee hearings and current state of the VA): No organization would allow for a loss as great as the VA shows, which is why companies are using Project Management as their tool to control loss and ensure forward progression of little projects, towards the big picture. If a loss is projected, that company has a limit to what they are willing to lose, which would not be in the millions. The company would cut losses to reinvest their efforts elsewhere.
    The VA blatantly does what they want. Politicians turn their heads the other way and allow the VA to continue to kill us veterans off. There are NO politicians out there willing to put their paychecks at risk (plus the VA can donate a whole lot more than what we can) or their retirement and free healthcare.

    This action is the VA’s way to blatantly flip us off while laughing all the way to the bank. You don’t think they stay up at night and worry about if they are going to get a job tomorrow, how they are going to pay their mortgage, how much money they need to save to buy groceries do you?

  3. Ahead of this announcement, the VA has provided me with a new and pricey iPad.
    Because of service connected mobility issues, I’ve utilized it to have interaction with the staff from Occupational Therapy to assess my home, via the camera, for modification Grants, mobility assistance and equipment to make my life a bit better. I can’t address this new “development” by Apple and the VA, but the tool that has been provided (iPad) has been beneficial, so far. I see this as a great asset for those of us that have a good day just getting out of bed, for many reasons.
    Although security is paramount, at least an option is provided for many of us. Granted, ANYTHING “on line” is subject to security issues, I thank the people in Florida for thinking of this. It’s far more practical to perform a remote assessment of my needs than “traditional” options.

  4. With this post I am on record as declining any access to my medical records by any electronic means outside of the VA mainframe/servers such medical record in existence only for my care and my care providers knowledge, and no others without my express written permission.

  5. Oh hey this is great that China will be able to mine the records of Vietnam Vets. Remember The Chiêu Hồi Program in Vietnam: don’t shoot at them till they shoot at you first but don’t tell anybody we are dumping all this 175mm ammo on the Ho Chi Minh trail- ya hear boy’ BTW: General Abrams who replaced Westmorlend’s search and destroy mission with win “their hearts and minds” must be dancing the Chinese Jig over this
    Sorry , I’m dumping Apple as fast as I can and I won;t but another piece of their stuff because of this. Get the word out China has our medical records. What kind of cock-eyed alky shit is this country getting all of us into? And who is going to straighten it out? I’m waving the Flag here: whe you guys get through puking over this stuff, DUMP APPLE!

  6. This is all so wrong how can we stop it or is it to late vets are already in hiding from what va does hear and you are going to dump our records on the public as well as other countries I ask you as a Vietnam era vet what did we ever do to you but give our lives for an undeclared war you politicians decided we should be in come on back off my medical records are private you have no right to release them to anyone unless we ok it I will definitely start a lawsuit against the va if you go thru with this

  7. I have just been made aware of this issue, and at this time, I don’t see the benefit as I already have access to my records via MyHealthyVet. This works very well for me, and I would rather have the funds allotted to Apple to go to providing better care and access to care for veterans. Just saying.

    Peace Out

  8. The VA is adamant about using veterans medical information as a way to make us feel secure, then why doesn’t the VA use their employees information first and see how that goes and after a few years and have an open forum for those who want their information to be used

  9. The way this reads if you do not use these new apps Apple will not have access to your data, please inform me if I am wrong.

  10. It’ll be a cold day in hell when I let private providers see my ludicrous VA health records. They’re nothing like my true medical treatment. The VA has the dumbest entries one can imagine in a health record.

  11. It is too easy for all of our Records to be stolen on the Apps, even if you don’t agree to any of it. Hair brained ideas by hair brained greedy bastards, are still hair brained.

  12. “https://www.senior65.com/medicare/article/va-benefits-and-medicare-what-you-need-to-know”
    I will now just call for an ambulance or take my husband my self to a hospital of our choice after knowing that the VA will never fork money out to a privite sector non-VA facility.
    I wrote to Trump with this. And I told him it is well known that Obama ‘Barry Hoggle Soetoro’ took funds from the Choice Program and now I am thinking so has Trump. It is in Black and white.

  13. I am presuming the graphic shows some of the proposed apps. A risk, I know.

    That being the case, they offer a wide number of capabilities not available to Veterans through the present VA web interface (aka Blue Button & MyHealthyVet).

    One cannot video conference with one’s PACT using the older interface; nor does the VA provide an online Mindfulness Coach; not a stop smoking app, or so on.

    None of these apps “give” Apple anything but revenue. Our records still sit where they are. It is not necessary for data to sit on an Apple Server owned and operated by Apple for an Application (app) to access that data. An iPhone is certainly as safe as the VA’s server farms, which are already “outsourced”—which I note no one mentioned.

    Why does Mr. Krause believe Apple will have access to our data? Is that explicitly part of the contract? Do the apps provide a third-party service, or do they facilitate access and communication between the Veteran and the VA Health Care service? What does the deal actually say about data, content, and access (as in, will Apple be permitted to “archive” video conferences or entries made by Veterans, etc…).

    And will a Veteran’s ISP be permitted to “monitor” the data unencrypted as part of its “network integrity” checking?

    As for CHina, I feel the Chinese have proven they can hack US Government systems pretty much when and as they want, so I don’t see where moving from the disorganised outsourced VA IT to Apple would represent a greater risk.

    Facts, please.

    • An Update (Facts)…

      Apple will not have access to your health records as a result of your acquiring or using these Apps. It has already gained access to anonymous record data and the server-farm (medical records) interface in order to develop the suite of Apps.

      IF you elect to download any records, then, just as is the case with “Blue Button”, that data will be available on your device. If you routinely use the Cloud for sharing or backing up data, then your medical info will be shared or backed up. Your attention to detail, as we would have said in the day, is crucial.

      I have not seen the contract or the Terms of Service, but from the explanations of the project, Apple will not be the data provider; they are gaining access to market share and another way to make one’s smartphone integral to life.

      If you lived without carrying your medical file around in the days when it was paper, you won’t be any more at risk than you are now. If you use “Blue Button” or “MyHealthyVet”, then you’re already more vulnerable. If your records are digitised—and most are—then you are already “at risk” by trusting the VA to mind the security of your data.

      In summary, the agreement is good for Apple, and good for Veterans who are smartphone adept—younger Veterans. For those of us not quite so agile with our phones, it requires engagement with someone who understands the technology and can explain what we need to do to secure our phone and locally-held data.

    • No, Lee, that’s not the deal. The idea is that many Veterans have and use smart phones and other devices, like tablets. Although their are other manufacturers and suppliers of these devices, they do not have the same clout and they do not have the same experise as Apple—both are important.

      IF you have an iPhone, you have access to the new suite of Apps. If the Apps are developed properly, you will likely also be able to use them from an iPad and from a Mac (laptop or desktop). Economically, the iPhone is where new things happen because it is the most popular platform.

      IF you have an Android or other OS-driven smart phone or tablet or etc…, then you want to try and get the manufacturer and supplier to help you drive the VA to widen the access base. As everyone keeps touting how they want to help veterans, this should be no problem (but of course, it’s really about $$B, so they won’t). But generally speaking, the technology is not new, so getting the Apps on another platform is really a matter of getting VA to do the right thing, which is never an easy task.

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