Apple's healthcare initiatives

From the WSJ (paywall):

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has said the company’s greatest contribution to mankind will be in health. So far, some Apple initiatives aimed at broadly disrupting the healthcare sector have struggled to gain traction, according to people familiar with them and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Apple has envisioned an audacious plan for healthcare, offering its own primary-care medical service with Apple-employed doctors at its own clinics, according to people familiar with the plan and documents. To test that and other bold healthcare ideas, it took over clinics that catered to its employees and built a team with scores of clinicians, engineers, product designers and others.

Today those ambitions, which aren’t widely known, have largely stalled as Apple has shifted the focus of its health unit to something it knows well: Selling devices, specifically the Apple Watch, according to people familiar with its strategy. Apple Struggles in Push to Make Healthcare Its Greatest Legacy - WSJ

I am not sure I would use an Apple “primary care medical service”, but it would be interesting to know more about it.

The team decided one of the best ways to realize that vision was to provide a medical service of its own, said people familiar with the plan, linking data generated by Apple devices with virtual and in-person care provided by Apple doctors. Apple would offer primary care, but also continuous health monitoring as part of a subscription-based personalized health program, according to these people and the documents.

If Apple could prove that its combination of device sensors, software and services could improve people’s health and lower costs, the company could franchise the model to health systems and even other countries, according to the documents.

To start, Apple chose to test the service out on its own employees. Apple took over employee health clinics near its headquarters that were being run by a startup and turned them into test beds for new health services, say people familiar with the changes. In 2017 it hired Dr. Sumbul Desai from Stanford University to run the effort, which was given the code name Casper, said the people familiar with the plan.


Wow. I’m glad to hear about the pivot. Business and direct healthcare just don’t go well together, systemically. The feedback loops are all wrong.

But better personal health data, and Apple’s research partnerships through that data, seem like a uniquely powerful contribution to our healthcare systems. Some phenomena can only be studied at the scale of the Apple Watch. The work Apple’s doing on Falls and gaits, for instance, is tough to study in a lab.

Maybe someday we’ll see more sensors from Apple? I wonder if their eventual glasses will do something in this space…

1 Like

This would have been a massive change for Apple. The amount of administration it would take to do this would be significant and (I would guess) would massively divert resources which Apple needs to service it’s existing business.

I’m glad they’ve stepped away from the idea.


my take is that is waaaaay more profitable for Apple to sell “gadgets” with an health “vibe” on them, not medical devices (which means more strict regulations, different for each country - we have seen different timed rollout of some AW features in different countries, and are features that are “sort of” medical - ECG, blood oxygen etc) and stick to the narrative “AW makes you more fit, happy and handsome, buy fitness+ and whatever new subscription they will launch”, maybe add a sport band like device (don’t see this coming tho) or some other wearable.

that said, I agree with @ryanjamurphy

1 Like