Thursday, January 24, 2019
This Is Probably Pretty Big News Regarding What Apple Is Up To In Digital Health.
This appeared a few days ago:
Apple has been gradually building out its health strategy; here's what it looks like right now.
Digital health is where big tech firms want to be right now: from Amazon to IBM, Microsoft to Google, hardware and software companies are scrambling to up their presence in the healthcare sector. Apple has been quietly expanding into the space for a number of years as its devices and its CEO Tim Cook even recently said that in future the company's greatest contribution to humanity would be considered to be 'about health'.
The first signs of Apple's burgeoning interest in health came with the launch of its HealthKit platform and Health app, which debuted alongside the first Apple Watch. Back then, it was consumer wellness that Apple was talking about, helping users track their exercise, diet, and other lifestyle metrics, with the idea that if you know how much you're doing, you might be encouraged to do more.
However, the launch of CareKit and ResearchKit around the same time showed that Apple was also thinking about how to work with medical professionals as well as consumers. The company has also been making it easier for users of its devices to share data with their healthcare provider, and making sure that the data it gathers is as useful and accurate as insurers and physicians need it to be.
One of the earliest significant moves in this direction came with Apple's exploration of how its Watch could be used to monitor heart conditions, including working with Stanford's medical school to enable the wearable to identify people with atrial fibrillation. The research led on to Apple Watch's ECG feature, launched with watchOS 5.1.2, which uses the onboard sensors to actively and passively monitor for the condition. (Apple is also thought to be working on expanding the number of heart conditions that the Watch can detect.) While the Watch's ECG feature is not anywhere near as sensitive as the ECG tech found in hospitals, it could still potentially be used to identify heart problems in people that may not be aware they have them, helping both patients and health providers to deal with such conditions before they cause major harm.
It's not just heart health that Apple's looking at: it's also working with Zimmer Biomet, a company that creates medical products including replacement joints, to track how people recover from knee and hip replacement surgery. The organisations have created an app that will remind people undergoing the surgeries to, for example, do exercises that are useful in recovery, and will let patients share activity data with their surgical teams.
Technology companies like Apple are looking to help healthcare providers use devices and real-time data from chronically ill patients to proactively manage their health, "so they're not ending up in the emergency room over and over again and increasing the overall cost of care," says Jeff Becker, senior analyst at tech research company Forrester.
If Apple's initiatives to monitor serious medical conditions prove successful, they could allow the company to make a case to health insurers that, despite the upfront hardware cost, buying or subsidising its products for their customers could provide savings later on down the line, by reducing the amount of expensive healthcare interventions people need. It's a message that's already struck a chord with insurer Vitality, which allows customers that exercise to earn discounts on the price of an Apple Watch, with its most energetic users able to pay nothing at all. While Watches aren't cheap, they could potentially save insurers by encouraging customers to take up and maintain healthy habits, and so reduce their future healthcare needs. Lack of exercise is a risk factor for developing or exacerbating many chronic conditions; Vitality reports an average 34 percent increase in activity levels for those using the company's reward scheme which features the Apple Watch.
There are other signs that Apple is looking to become indispensable to insurers. In December, Apple reportedly hired Jason Oberfest, CEO of a medication management app called Mango Health, which is aimed at people who are on a complex drug regime. There are many reasons patients don't take their drugs as prescribed: they may have difficulty remembering what to take when, they may find the side effects too onerous, or they may have difficulty reading the label or opening a bottle. The costs of patients taking drugs at the wrong time or missing doses can be serious: not only does it cost the healthcare industry between $5,000 to $50,000 per person, but it can also delay someone's recovery or cause significant or harmful drug interactions. If Apple is looking at creating products that help users stay on track with their medication, it could offer another way for its products to save insurers money -- potentially strengthening its argument that such companies should provide subsidised hardware to customers.
Lots more here:
Similar coverage is here from Forbes:
Jan 17, 2019, 11:27am
It’s been coming for a long time--digital health, health tech, mHealth or whatever you’d like to call it.
And it’s been slow and problematic.
But the tides seem to be shifting, and dramatically at that. There are recent events that may have the muscle to drive this new era of consumer health tech and one is name behind it. That's Apple.
I was struck to hear Tim Cook's recent proclamation on Apple's future reported in a recent story.
If you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question: 'What was Apple's greatest contribution to mankind?', it will be about health," he said. "We're democratizing it. We're taking what has been with the institutions and empowering the individual to manage their health.
In a phone interview today, former Apple CEO John Sculley echoed this sentiment.
Healthcare is the world's largest industry. And this market is many, many times the size of what Steve Jobs saw in the PC market years ago. Apple's best days were when it was helping to define and shape the future. Today, given its high consumer appeal and trust, Apple is in a unique position to help shape healthcare for years to come.
With this I think we all just have to stand back and see how the strategy evolves. I suspect we won’t have long to wait.
Posted by Dr David G More MB PhD at Thursday, January 24, 2019