Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested that the company’s upcoming health-related work will be its “greatest contribution to mankind” in a recent interview with CNBC. While its traditional business is challenged by Google, Amazon, and others, Apple has shown time and again that they play in an ecosystem where they own every piece of it or have an influence on it.
Traditional healthcare solutions marginalized end users, as the solution provider had only one incentive to streamlet the payout from insurance companies. But Apple has always approached innovation from the end user experience. That’s how they disrupted various verticals of computing, music, and personal communication. Apple has, time and again, shown how to put users in the center.
By offering the same sophisticated user experience in health, Apple becomes an integral part of the healthcare ecosystem where they control major touchpoints (just read about aggregation theory). Apple’s foray into health records with FHIR has been an important step in making them the center of the ecosystem through the devices. Apple can now stake a claim in the entire value chain:
Health Data Generation
(Wearables, Sleep, Health Apps)
Health Data Storage
(Apple Health App)
(ResearchKit, CareKit, New Services in iOS 13)
Apple has been seriously building muscle into its hardware through the bionic chip, and we all saw the powerful ECG demo. Then there’s Apple’s 2017 patent on computing health data using blood flow, and another patent on blood pressure measurement with the Apple Watch. Could Apple earpods become a new age thermometer? Apple already has a presence in sleep through Beddit. All these innovations, along with a host of health devices which work with Apple, mean rich data about people’s health is getting stored in the Health app. They are all strategic pieces of the puzzle that is the next-generation healthcare experience.
With ResearchKit and CareKit, Apple has firmly established that they know what it takes to tame the healthcare beast. ResearchKit has been influential in democratizing medical research by providing access to patients. CareKit just put the patient in the center for care management. Now Apple must set its sights on full healthcare support, and we hope to see some advancement in that in iOS 13.
Getting 120-odd hospitals to agree to work with Apple on EHR is no small achievement. Now that people can download their medical records with the support of CareKit and wearables, preventative care and active care can rise to a whole new level.
Oscar health and others have already shown how effective telemedicine can be. Apple can enable it to huge providers and insurance companies as a play for proactive health management, where a combination of wearables, AI, and suggestive intervention by real people can bring the cost of care significantly down (as shown in their 2015 patent).
It remains to be seen how Apple positions the developer and medical device manufacturer involvement with the release of new iOS 13.
Vivek Rajanna is VP, Product Engineering, Technology at Sequoia Consulting Group.