All Apple’s moves in the (digital) health industry

Recently has teamed up with Johnson & Johnson on new study to see if Apple Watch can reduce risk of stroke. The tech giant has long since launched initiatives in the digital health: in U.S. his Health app sees the medical records of dozens of health institutions and the Research app allows to contribute to medical research

Published on 02 Mar 2020

The digital health sector, in which the role of technology is fundamental, benefits tech companies that cannot say no to the business of business, the health business. Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft (see table) are all committed to the industry and also have a lot to offer in healthcare, given their expertise and the fact that technology can transform the health industry radically and positively, allowing it to make new discoveries, and to achieve greater effectiveness and personalization in care and greater sustainability of health systems. 

Compared to other big tech, Apple is transforming its consumer products into platforms for patient health, for example with Apple Watch, which in its latest version has also been equipped with an electrocardiogram sensor. According to the Business Insider table, the opportunities presented to Apple are mainly in the field of mobile health (i.e. everything that can be provided for health on smartphones) and personalized health policies, a front on which it is in fact already working having an agreement with Aetna, an American insurer, with whom it has developed an application called Attain connected to Apple Watch.

At the end of February, Apple and Johnson & Johnson announced a new study called Heartline whose purpose is to verify whether the Apple Watch (Series 4, which offers a feature for a AFib detection) can help reduce the risk of stroke and detect atrial fibrillation (AFib) early.

A similar study was conducted by Apple and Stanford and the results were published last November, and the finding were up for debate among doctors.

One truth can be said: when last year Tim Cook said that he thinks Apple’s “greatest contribution to mankind” will be related to health technology, what he meant was that Apple strategy on digital health is really serious, and is a huge business.

The development of mHealth 

The strategy Apple applies to the health industry is its usual approach, namely to build a huge business and ecosystem of innovative features within its products. 

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Its iPhone and iPod Touch, for example, with the Health Records feature (in Italy it’s the Health app) launched in 2018, have become personal platforms for managing one’s own health and not only in the sense that everyone can manually enter data to keep specific information organised: in the US this feature is more advanced, since Apple has already made agreements with dozens of health organizations that support medical records on iPhone and iPod touch, allowing you to view important data such as vaccinations, laboratory results, drugs and vital data directly in the Health app. 

This increasingly long list of Apple partners has recently seen the entry of VA – Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. government agency that deals with the health of war veterans. The VA is the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States, with over 1,200 facilities, including 170 medical centers and at least 9 million patients. 

As Business Insider points out, VA’s inclusion on its partner list will not be limited to providing the technology giant with access to a multitude of new customers. Ultimately it’s also an endorsement by a huge government healthcare system that is gaining value for the Apple brand in healthcare, sending a positive signal to other systems that are considering integrating health records into Health Records. 

Apple commitment to scientific research 

To understand what Apple wants to become in the health sector, you have to refer to everything it does in the US, certainly not in Italy or Europe. 

For example, its commitment to scientific research is visible only in the US, where its users can download the Research App and contribute to important scientific studies through the voluntary sharing of their data. 

In recent days, for example, Apple has announced that customers (in the United States) can enroll in three benchmark health studies: the Apple Women’s Health Study, the Apple Heart and Movement Study, and the Apple Hearing Study, which are conducted in collaboration with leading academic and research institutions. 

The Research App does not only give research institutions access to much more data in a simpler way: it represents a paradigm shift in the relationship between science and people. Study participants contribute to potentially revolutionary medical breakthroughs and create the next generation of innovative healthcare products with a smartphone. “Today marks an important time for research initiatives that can offer incredible learning in areas long sought after by the medical community,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer. “Participants in the Research app have the opportunity to make a huge impact that could lead to new discoveries and help millions of people lead healthier lives. 

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