We’re putting together a deep dive into Apple in healthcare coming soon, so I don’t want to ruin all the surprises, but a couple of interesting notes from the Apple event yesterday.
Apple announced it was working with the FDA and Stanford to assess if the Apple Watch can detect atrial fibrillation. For one this solidifies that Apple is moving from wellness into healthcare, with the focus of the watch expanding further and further in that direction every year. We’ve talked about the difficulty of wearables in the past, but being able to capture clinical-grade data provides a specific use case and moves us closer to the era of “set it and forget it” where our health data is captured passively.
Another interesting implication comes from the rumor that Apple may be partnering with American Well in the same study to provide patients in the study with telemedicine services if they’re flagged as at-risk. It addresses one of the core problems with healthcare — people are reactive and only seek out care when they actually feel ill. But we’re starting to see hints of health management becoming a more proactive process with health companies reaching out to patients instead of the other way around. This study could set an example for health outreach going forward.
Another area where we has seen this starting to happen is in mental health with startups like AbleTo, which we talked about in the research briefing. And mental health highlights one of the hairy parts about proactive health – how do you tactfully tell somebody they might be sick and should seek help?
Noticeably absent from yesterday’s presentation was an update to Apple’s HomePod – a voice controlled speaker. The direct consumer relationship that tech companies are forming in the home presents a valuable opportunity for healthcare as well. Consider how many elderly and less mobile people could use a voice activated home device to ask questions, assess risk, and get care as necessary. However Apple seems deliberately slow in telling us more about the HomePod – but what if it included HIPAA compliance upon release as a differentiator from the other at-home voice platforms?
On the other hand, Amazon continues to push along. They’ve now filed a patent to detect your heart rate using cameras and sensors, which would fit well into their new Echo models that include cameras.