Apple is Getting into Healthcare with Doctors and an Improved Apple Watch

Originally published on Medium by  Michael K. Spencer.

Apple Watch’s ECG feature is finding stealth heart problems in seniors.

Apple is joining Google and Amazon as tech companies getting more into healthcare. It’s a really interesting push since they have a product that syncs well with aging populations.

Apple now has 50 doctors on staff, and the idea of Doctors recommending Apple Watches to patients since it has legit health monitoring features now is an interesting experiment to say the least.

In an era of ballooning healthcare costs, the smart home needs to get better at health monitoring and patient data that’s trained on AI. Here Google and Amazon have to have an advantage over Apple, with personal assistants and speakers that are much further along than Siri or Apple’s HomePod. However, Apple has an incredibly refined product in its Apple Watch (that keeps improving).

Apple has onboarded doctors who are influential in the actual features of the Apple Watch product related to their specialty. So Apple’s entry into healthcare has a real world application. These doctors are influential, scattered across teams, and helping guide strategy as the company delves into health care.

The dream of wearables was always a stream of data that was actionable. Nothing is quite as urgent and actionable as healthcare in these times. The hires could help Apple win over doctors — potentially its harshest critics — as it seeks to develop and integrate health technologies into the Apple Watch, iPad and iPhone. Even more importantly I think, the Doctors can help elevate the Apple Watch to being a “must-have” product for aging GenX, Boomers and even older Millennials who want to stay on top of all the details of their health.

Tech companies will eventually be replacing your family doctor. An Amazon Prime for Health is really just around the corner. The smart home will merge with consumer AI in a very ubiquitous way, this will impact parenting, taking care of our parents and everything in-between, from virtual consults to early diagnosis. Brick-and-mortar healthcare will also be transformed by new technologies.

The Apple Watch could be one of those devices that enable patients to manage their conditions with more dignity, data and patient-centric awareness. Can the Apple Watch represent a 360 degree of healthcare though? The number of doctors on staff is an indication that Apple is serious about helping customers manage disease, and not just wellness or fitness (some have since taken down their LinkedIn connection to Apple). It’s not a program that’s in stealth mode, but with only 40–50 doctors it’s not a very serious network quite yet. Thus we have to admit that Amazon and Google are likely well ahead of Apple in Healthtech.

Ironically, for the mainstream, older GenX and boomers are the only people who can afford Apple Watches at scale. So Apple targeting them is only natural. Apple always has absurd profit margins on its products, and by elevating its features namely the ECG, it’s a huge step in the right direction. There’s also been a recent spate of hires into Apple’s AC Wellness primary care group, which treats employees near its headquarters. Apple is in the hunt, and healthcare being augmented by tech companies is very necessary for a world that is soon colliding with aging population in a very significant way.

If you had told us that the Apple Watch could conduct an ECG monitoring, it would have felt like science-fiction even in 2015. Heart monitoring is sort of a big deal in data streams for healthcare. When the ability to take an ECG reading that allows doctors to diagnose heart conditions becomes normative, the door is flung wide open on how we see health data.

Apple’s doctors are still practicing while working at the company, providing the advantage of having medical professionals who are aware of current trends in healthcare. That might also give Apple an edge by emphasizing the patient experience. Congrats to the Apple Watch 4. The ECG is an important milestone seriously, where to activate the feature, you need the Apple Watch Series 4 and the latest version of WatchOS.