The market opportunity in healthcare is huge, and Apple sees healthcare and wellness as a core part of its app, services, and wearables strategies, according to CB Insights, a strategic intelligence firm.
CB Insights says now the company is aiming to become your personal health record, jumping into research, medical devices, and more.
With the release of the Apple Health Record and Apple Watch with a single-lead ECG, it’s evident that Apple has officially entered the healthcare space.
The company hopes to build the first healthcare platform friendly to third parties, with the personal health record at the centre.
In this report, CB Insights analyzes Apple’s ongoing impact on clinical research and studies, its strategy in building a personal health record, and where the company’s going next in healthcare.
Why Apple is moving into healthcare
There a few major reasons for Apple’s moves into the highly regulated world of healthcare.
Tech giants, for one, are becoming more competitive with one another, encroaching on territories Apple has historically dominated: Google is making phones, Amazon is focusing on home hardware, the wearables market is saturated, and so on.
As tech giants continue to move into Apple’s territory, healthcare can help the company differentiate its products and further reach its core goals, which include:
- Selling more high-margin hardware
- Increasing switching costs from its ecosystem
- Expanding its service offerings (Apple Cloud, App Store, etc.)
Keeping people in its ecosystem is also how Apple has managed to create an attractive third-party developer ecosystem in its app store. The lack of an existing third-party developer ecosystem for healthcare data is an open opportunity for Apple.
This is more conceivable thanks to the proliferation of FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) technology, which looks to increase interoperability among hospitals, physicians, and other relevant parties.
FHIR creates standards for different data elements so that developers can build application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be used to access datasets from different systems. Apple is part of the group pushing this standard forward.
Finally, Apple can use healthcare as a means to distribute its products into the hands of demographics that it has traditionally had a tough time penetrating: the low-income and elderly populations. Considering these groups are disproportionately more likely to be sick, Apple can position itself as a tool to improve outcomes and distribute via family members or insurance carriers (which we’ll dive into later in this piece).
THE PHONE AS A MEDICAL DEVICE
With every progressive release of the iPhone, we’re seeing the introduction of new components that improve processing power, sensors, new types of lighting ability, and more.
Apple’s new in-house A12 bionic chip is specifically designed to power artificial intelligence functions. The dot projector allows for granular facial recognition (useful in areas like autism detection, which we discussed earlier). Powerful cameras and machine vision could power new types of monitoring and diagnostics.
APPLE’S MEDICAL DEVICES
In September 2018, Apple announced that the Apple Watch Series 4 had been cleared by the FDA to provide a single lead electrocardiogram (ECG) into the watch. The Apple Watch also has fall detection. This could help move the watch into an essential product, especially for the elderly. This also completes Apple’s transition for the watch from a general purpose tool to a health and wellness product to a clinically usable device.
The idea of collecting clinical-grade cardiac data was hinted at in a patent Apple filed in 2016 with the goal of conducting ECGs via a wearable device.
Apple is blurring the line between wellness and healthcare, using its position in your pocket to connect the two. If it can crack the personal health record and patient data platform, it would empower patients to make decisions and give data access to whoever they choose. This is a very different paradigm for healthcare, where patients have increasingly more leverage, information, and agency in their decision making.
Apple is also approaching healthcare slowly. The company has achieved success by vertically integrating its experience and product, and seems to be approaching healthcare from a similar angle by connecting different parts of a user experience together (device, health record, platform, and potentially services like telemedicine).
Apple has the device ecosystem, built-in user base, brand, and incentive structure to make healthcare truly patient-centric. As the pieces start coming together and Apple starts entering the healthcare market, existing industry giants will have to figure out how to adapt.