Apple's Increasing Focus on Health Seen in Recent Hiring Trends, New Board Member
Apple has been talking for years about the role it wants to play in human health, led by the Apple Watch and its array of health-related features. With the Apple Watch maturing and Apple increasing its integration of health-focused hardware and software, several pieces of evidence suggest the company is positioning itself for an even bigger expansion in that direction.
According to trends compiled by Linkedin and seen by MacRumors, over the past year, Apple's open job listings in health-related fields have increased by over 220%, with a significant portion of the increase coming in just the last several months. Apple's health-focused hiring has been the fastest-growing segment for the company over the past year, followed most closely by sales and IT specialists, such as in cloud computing and security, according to the data.
Apple has stepped up features and services related to consumers' health over the past several years, with much of the credit being given to the Apple Watch. Apple has slowly transformed the Apple Watch into a more integral health tool, incorporating more sensors, such as blood oxygen, with on-device machine intelligence to notice possibly alarming trends in heart rate and more.
In another sign of its aspirations in health, Apple this week announced that Johnson & Johnson chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky has joined its Board of Directors. Gorsky is a "visionary in healthcare" who brings with him "tremendous insight, experience, and passion for technology to the cause of improving lives and building healthier communities," said Apple CEO Tim Cook. Gorsky joins former Genentech Chairman and CEO Arthur Levinson on Apple's board, giving Apple significant health-related expertise on its board.
As for Apple's job listings, many of them focus on health research rather than specific product development roles. Apple has invested heavily in health research with the Research app, pursuing it as the first step for any future health features on the iPhone or Apple Watch. Apple's health research efforts of course also internally support the development of new products and features.
One particular job listing posted earlier in the summer seeks a manager to "lead human study efforts in collecting data to support development and validation of new health sensors and algorithms." Another job listing seeks a more product-oriented candidate that will "work closely with other designers, writers, engineers, scientists, researchers, and business partners to concept, prototype, and design elegant experiences that help our customers be in control of their health."
Apple has branched out regarding health, moving away from only providing users data from sensors on the iPhone and Apple Watch, but also working with hospitals and medical institutions to create a broader ecosystem. With the Health app on iOS 15, Apple added functionality for users to share health data with family and close friends, COVID-19 vaccine records, blood glucose highlights, and more.
The centerpiece of Apple's health roadmap is the Apple Watch, and reports suggest the watch will continue to mature as an independent health device in the years to come. Users may be able to measure their body temperature and even their blood pressure in future iterations of the Apple Watch.
"Apple's most-important contribution to mankind has been in health," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview in January of 2019, just months after the Apple Watch had gained the ability for users to take an ECG right on their wrist. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the company's recent health-related hiring trends.
Top Rated Comments
What is conservative is anything related to HIPAA. And the majority of HIPAA related data is stored in EMRs, which are 3rd party vendors. Epic, for example, holds 54% of all medical records for Americans. And they're nice... and... slow... which severely limits how much you can do. IIRC, they don't support Apple Watch yet either, which is a major reason why we don't support the Apple Watch.
The other issue with using IoT devices to get health data is that you need to make them reliable and fool-proof enough that you can hand them out to end users who have no medical training and use still trust the data that they give back.
Imagine asking a cardiac patient to put on their own heart monitors; the data would be unreliable at best, so while it's nice that you can do it from the comfort of home, you'd still have false positives and false negatives due to the fact that you can't trust that the leads are connected properly.
Now lets move to HealthKit. Apple's be-all-end-all for healthcare.
Imagine Starbucks automatically adds your caffeine intake into HealthKit whenever you order a drink using their app. And that you're also using a calorie tracking app, so you add in your coffee when you get it. If that calorie tracking app also adds in the caffeine, the HealthKit data now contains 2x the entries for your coffee. And since the calorie counter doesn't know about Starbucks, it doesn't take it into consideration. The only way that your data is correct is if Apple can determine that your manually entered data is identical to what Starbucks gives - And it's really hard to determine if it's 1 cup of coffee from Starbucks and one from the coffee machine, or if it's the same coffee.
So all this data that's in HealthKit, is unreliable -- it's kind of useless from a clinical standpoint.
Sure you can look at trends, or say "This person drinks a lot of coffee" or "This person hardly ever has coffee", but that's about all it's good for, in its current state. Abstractions, estimates, and best guesses. You can get the same resolution of data by asking a person "Do you exercise regularly", or even just looking at their waist line.
Step counting and the like is great for the gamification of your health (and selling Apple Fitness+), but not for precise clinical data.
Even Apple stated publicly not to consider the AW a medical device but for fitness which there is a big difference.
The general public should also learn the difference and stop being ignorant of that fact.
Having said that... the healthcare industry is slowly opening up that fitness devices are appearing and that the general public is slowly embracing them, using it as an indicator of their health so the industry should at least start being more open-minded about the various devices.