June 22, 2021 — A growing number of consumers can now download their electronic health records to the Apple Health app on their iPhones as more health care providers get onboard.

Meanwhile, Apple just announced what could eventually prove to be a breakthrough for patients: the ability to share with their doctor health records from other providers and the data that they generate themselves on their iPhones, Apple Watches, and third-party apps.

But some observers say we have a long way to go before much of this information will be useful to doctors. And it’s not clear how many people will download their records, partly because medical terms can be hard for consumers to understand, they note.

Apple launched its free electronic health record (EHR) download feature in 2018 and beta-tested it with a dozen health care systems early in 2019. Now, about 700 health care organizations with 12,000 care sites offer patients the option of downloading their records into their iPhone Health app, a company spokesperson tells WebMD. That’s 200 more organizations than took part late last year. And EHR vendors that own most of the market have connected to Apple Health for the record downloads.

Eventually, experts say, most health care providers will allow patients to put their records on their iPhones. “It will become table stakes. Even if not many patients use it, if you don’t do it, you’ll look like a dinosaur,” says Joseph Kvedar, MD, a Harvard Medical School dermatology professor who is chair of the American Telemedicine Association.