Flashback to high school. Remember when someone from your class wouldn’t be there for a couple of days... and then a week, and then a couple of weeks. The rumors about what was up with that kid would begin to seep out of the air vents, reaching everyone and spreading around the school.
Well, Apple has been absent from class for the past couple years and the rumors around losing innovation are starting to pile up.
Obviously, rumors are very subjective, so I try not to participate in them... until this one crossed my desk (er, I mean my computer screen):
Apple isn’t new to healthcare. Their all-encompassing Health App that monitors activity, sleep, mindfulness, and nutrition empowers iPhone and Apple Watch users to take control of their health. Their HealthKit, ResearchKit, and CareKit allows developers to use health data collected by Apple Devices to build robust apps that’ll create even better personal health monitoring experiences.
But this rumor, if true, would be a huge technology advancement to their health division.
Imagine if every time you wore your AirPods headphones, your heart was being monitored—making sure you weren’t experiencing irregular heartbeats or palpitations, which are early warning signs of an imminent stroke. Add the heart monitoring capabilities to their Health App functionality, and now you have your own personal health assistant by your side at all times, encouraging you to take a walk before bed, eat a lighter lunch since your breakfast was so large, and to run a little bit faster to reach the optimal target heart rate zone.
You can’t tell me that you wouldn’t be at least a little interested in making sure your heart was running at peak condition.
Would this data be welcomed by the medical community?
To date, healthcare organizations and medical professionals have politely said, “no thanks”, to consumer-generated data—they simply don’t have the resources to look for trends in data made available by your fitness or sleep tracker. Does Apple have the power to change this? Possibly.
Apple is taking a smart approach by working with healthcare organizations early in the process. Last year they announced a partnership with Texas Medical Center to build a series of healthcare management applications. This type of early collaboration will be critical to receiving the feedback necessary to understand how data they collect with any new device can be made useful for medical professionals.
Alternatively, Apple could find our existing healthcare delivery model too limiting and decide to bypass health systems altogether, opting instead to focus solely on providing value to the individual. Could this be a significant step in the direction of patients trusting and receiving care from a technology company instead of a traditional medical practitioner? Theoretically, Apple could analyze the data collected and provide customized health management plans for users.
This is very much in line with how healthcare providers and technology providers are already working to change behaviors and help patients dealing with chronic conditions. With Apple, however, they could theoretically bypass healthcare organizations and providers altogether—their business model wouldn’t be caught up in the ever-changing maze of medical reimbursements and instead would be direct with the consumer. They may even find a way to de-identify and aggregate all of that data to be sold, allowing the service to be free for users.
We don’t know what Apple’s next big thing for healthcare is, but it’s clear a lot of what they are releasing has potential outside of the traditional consumer electronic space. We’ll be watching closely to see just what shape that path will eventually take.
When it comes to healthcare’s technology-enabled future, we're just getting started. Revolutionary devices and services are going to flood the market in coming years, completely reimagining the way healthcare is delivered and received—and personally, I'm looking forward to it.