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What the Magicians of Cupertino Didn’t Reveal: The Five Reasons Apple is About to Completely Disrupt Healthcare

Apple’s big announcement in Cupertino on September 9 had all the excitement and theatrics that we have grown to expect from their grand reveals. When Apple unveils anything, it’s news that’s covered across industries. Of course, one of the centerpieces of the most recent event was the unveiling of the Apple Watch. This new device represents Apple’s effort to enter the fast-growing wearable market (estimated 2014 worldwide sales for wearables will be in the vicinity of $5 billion).

However, don’t be fooled by all the cool-looking products and shiny hardware and sleek little apps. Like a magician’s sleight of hand, all of the drama of the “big reveal” helps to make the real news even more surprising and dramatic.

So, while all the media attention is spent on the Apple Watch’s features and design aesthetics—which will obviously have the greatest impact on sales—Apple is eyeing a bigger prize. They’re not trying to create the next Fitbit or Nike Fuel Band. Apple wants to act as disrupter in how personal data is tracked and leveraged across the entire $2.7 trillion healthcare industry.

Let’s look behind the curtain at Apple’s Five Major Healthcare Disruptions:

1).  The Real Story is Apple’s HealthKit
Healthkit is the software that allows individual data streaming from the Apple Watch to be amassed over time. This is serious personal tracking software! This slide from a Healthkit Developers presentation indicates just some of the depth behind the Healthkit programming framework.

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2). Healthcare Integration (Domination?) is Apple’s Goal
Healthkit provides the hooks for data from the Apple Watch to flow to other apps, and ultimately, to third-party healthcare providers. A data partnership with Epic has been announced, with many pundits believing that a user’s HealthKit data would be pushed into their electronic medical record for access by HCPs directly through the Epic system. What’s more, other prominent healthcare organizations have struck deals with Apple around how the data can support their efforts. We’re talking big names here—Cleveland Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, and Mayo Clinic—and Apple is in deep discussions with UnitedHealth and Humana. Rumors abound of similar conversations with even more powerhouses: Allscripts, Johns Hopkins, and Mount Sinai Hospital. Make no mistake: Apple is banking on deep data integration via HealthKit to make the Apple Watch more than a functional fashion accessory.

3). Apple’s mHealth “Dream Team” is Just Getting Started
Over the last two years, Apple has assembled some of the best mHealth minds in the world. On the hardware side, keep in mind that this is just Apple Watch 1.0. With their team of mHealth heavy-hitters in place, and improvements to the Apple Watch health sensors already in the tech pipeline, look forward to increasingly nuanced personal tracking, coupled with ever-more-effective reminders and goal setting. Apple even has a patent for earbuds that can track your pulse and temperature!

4). Partnerships With EHR Providers Suggest Clinical Applications
It’s not difficult to imagine future versions of the Apple Watch specifically engineered, and FDA approved, for use in clinical settings. Imagine down the line if a patient’s diagnostics, lab results, and scans are pushed to the individual’s HealthKit profile and shared with selected health providers. There’s the opportunity for this data to coexist in a single place, enabling clinicians to see a bigger picture. Bottom line: Apple is assembling enough cross-industry influence and respect to become the keystone platform for all of health informatics.

5). The “Quantified Self” is Now Stylish and Sexy
After years of suffering from a rather geeky image, health tracking has now gone mainstream. This is bound to have important healthcare ramifications, not just for Apple, but for patients and providers across a range of therapeutic categories.

Conclusion
The Apple Watch is getting lots of attention. It’s expected that 30 million devices will be sold in the first 12 months in the market—starting at $349 a pop. However, if the deep data integration opportunities described above are realized, we might not be too far away from patients being prescribed an Apple Watch with HealthKit data integration. Apple certainly hopes so, and this opportunity to disrupt all of healthcare informatics could make the first year of Apple Watch sales look paltry in comparison.

But Wait – There’s One More Thing!
Did we mention that physicians and other HCPs are using iPads? Not just using iPads, but adopting them like crazy. Currently, surveys indicate that iOS has a 70% share of the HCP marketplace.  Furthermore, according to research by ePocrates, more than 80% of physicians are “digital omnivores” – meaning they use a combination of smartphones, tablets, and desktop in their practice. U2 might not be back on stage to sing about it – but when all of the Apple Watch health data starts flowing through the healthcare system and is integrated to larger networks via Healthkit, it will likely be accessible to HCPs on iOS mobile devices!

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Mickey Lynch
Mickey has focused exclusively on digital communications programs for life sciences companies for the last 18 years. ​On Cadient’s Commercial Strategy & Innovation team, Mickey collaborates closely with brand teams and other stakeholders to embrace business objectives and to proactively develop creative and innovative recommendations for meeting these goals. ​ Mickey has an MBA in Marketing from Temple University and a BA in Communications from Loyola University Maryland.

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