Apple's next big idea: Private healthcare

The focus on health continues as Apple launches a new subsidiary company tasked with providing healthcare clinics to Apple employees, AC Wellness.

Apple, AC Wellness, healthcare, iOS, iPhone, digital health, health
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Apple has launched a new subsidiary company tasked with providing healthcare clinics to Apple employees: AC Wellness.

Healthy living through technology

According to the AC Wellness website, the company is based at the Apple health center in Cupertino, California, between its original headquarters at Infinite Loop and Apple Park.  

CNBC’s Christina Farr, who broke the news, claims the new primary care clinics will launch in earnest this spring at locations in Santa Clara County.

To support the attempt, Apple is recruiting doctors, health coaches, nursing staff and “designers.” You can find ads on Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn. 

The company website states:

“AC Wellness Network is an independent medical practice exclusively dedicated to delivering compassionate, effective healthcare to the Apple employee and dependent population at the Apple Wellness Centers in Santa Clara Valley, including the new Apple Park Wellness Center. AC Wellness Network believes that having trusting, accessible relationships with our patients, enabled by technology, promotes high-quality care and a unique patient experience.”

For the Apple people

Apple is starting small here.

The clinics will only cater for the health needs of Apple employees and will be situated at several locations in the area, including Apple Park, the report claims.

The idea makes sense — Apple will already be coughing up significant fees to provide healthcare services for its employees, so actually launching its own service makes sense — it can reduce running costs while leveraging the offer for future health insights.

Apple is recruiting designers to help develop healthcare programs in collaboration with its operations and technology teams.

These moves mean Apple employees will become the testing ground for what almost every Apple watcher now expects will become a big sector for the company.

Patient records, activity data, software and future health-related services can now be deployed and privately tested against a huge population — Apple Park hosts at least 12,000 staff, and the company has many more thousands across the area.

We know Apple is working on a plethora of health-related solutions, spanning non-invasive blood glucose monitoring, and a variety of research and study attempts to identify and provide proof for ways in which technology can make a difference to health.

Information is power

Of course, as Apple continues to develop new solutions around connected preventative healthcare, it can also begin to explore connected medical intervention technologies.

To do so, it will answer those questions currently drawing so much discussion across the industry, such as:

  • How can data provide actionable insights to help deliver public health?
  • How augmented reality (AR) and remote technologies can be used to provide better healthcare to remote communities?
  • How connected solutions can improve elderly care?

Healthy outlook

Apple has been quite open about its ambitions in health. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently told shareholders he thinks his company can make a “significant contribution” in the sector.

That’s no idle claim.

As a company at the heart of the mobile transformation, Apple is absolutely in a good position to figure out how to use technology effectively for patient care. (We are seeing all the ideas I discussed in 2013 come through, and more.)

The perfect storm of Apple’s mobile technologies and its capacity to work with large sample groups (ResearchKit helps also) mean it is going to have a huge impact on future health provision on a global scale.

Patient engagement and effective tools for remote diagnosis are entering the mainstream at this time (even the NHS in the U.K. now offers some online diagnosis).

“Health is a huge issue around the world and we think it’s ripe for simplicity and a new view,” Cook told a May 2016 conference in Amsterdam.

If I have questions, as a U.K. resident who still enjoys NHS coverage, it is around the ethical application of these technologies: Will Apple seek to reap the kind of profits so commonly seen by private healthcare providers who ask the sick for credit card details before they look at them, or will it instead decide to improve the lot of the poorest and most disadvantages healthcare seekers in order to truly “leave a better world”?

Another question surrounds privacy: If Cellebrite can truly break into any iOS device, just how secure will your patient data be? Is it appropriate that your confidential health data be left unprotected?

I do expect Apple will eventually extend its new healthcare subsidiary to people outside of Apple, possibly through link-ups with insurance firms. I'm in no doubt at all now that the company wants to be good for your health. 

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