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Source: Wikimedia Commons and Jose Adillo

Will Apple Disrupt Healthcare?

Robin Young • Mon, July 3rd, 2017

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Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor of Healthcare Informatics, wrote this week that Apple may succeed where Google and IBM have so far failed—namely in building a category killer business in healthcare data collection and analytics.

Said Leventhal this week; “It was fascinating to read a CNBC (http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/14/apple-iphone-medical-record-integration-plans.html) article from June 14 on how Apple is looking to bring all of a patient’s health information together via its flagship product—the iPhone. The article, from tech reporter Christina Farr, has several layers to it that many in the health IT space would likely find captivating, but the core takeaway is that Apple is in talks with a multitude of healthcare stakeholders with eyes on turning your iPhone into a centralized bank for medical information.”

Farr reported, “CNBC has learned that a secretive team within Apple's growing health unit has been in talks with developers, hospitals and other industry groups about bringing clinical data, such as detailed lab results and allergy lists, to the iPhone, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the team. And from there, users could choose to share it with third parties, like hospitals and health developers.”

“Farr spoke with various health and technology experts for her piece. These sources seemed to be in agreement that with Apple heading down the road of leveraging the iPhone as a one-stop-shop for a patient’s health information.” Said one source, "If Apple is serious about this, it would be a big f---ing deal."

In the Beginning There Was Apple’s Healthkit

HealthKit is Apple’s 2014 health platform which connected personally generated health data and clinical data using Apple’s devices like the smart watch.

HealthKit, in turn, begat ResearchKit, a platform designed to allow users to participate in clinical research trials.

ResearchKit begat CareKit, an open-source platform designed to help developers enable people to actively manage their own medical conditions.

Then, in 2016, Apple bought personal health data startup Gliimpse—a platform for data access, data sharing and data management that essentially collates users’ health data from different platforms and helps consumers collect, personalize and share their health data.

Leventhal’s Insight Into a Paradigm Shift on Interoperability

Every clinic that has ever implemented an electronic health records systems knows what a pain interoperability is. Old computer systems won’t talk to new systems. That hospital records won’t transfer to this hospital system.

Normally, it is the clinic’s problem to figure out how to make patient records usable across any hospital or clinic IT platform.

Apple, Leventhal realized, is taking interoperability out of the clinic and putting it in an Apple watch or iPad. Making it, in other words, patient centric not clinic centric.

“…this development could signal a paradigm shift in how interoperability is thought of. Currently, most people think of interoperability as provider-centric, meaning patients are under the assumption that wherever they go for care, their provider will have access to their whole health history.”

“This perhaps suggests a patient angle to interoperability.”

The patient takes control—with a little help from Apple.

Apple Is the Best Consumer Products Company in the World and Medicine Is a Consumer Products Business

Market-research agency MBLM has released its 2017 Brand Intimacy Report (http://mblm.com/brandintimacy/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/01/BIS_2017_AllUp_Report_L4.pdf) earlier this year. Their report described top consumer brands as "exemplars in building emotional bonds and deep connections with their customers and creating stronger attachment and engagement."

According to their research, Apple is the most beloved brand in America.

Its cult like following and consistent marks for quality and user appeal, Apple has most successfully crossed age, gender, and income boundaries. Apple scored highest in enhancement (becoming better through use of the brand), ritual (ingraining the brand in daily activity), and identity (reflecting an aspirational image).

It ranked highest in the fusing category, in which the identities of the customer and the brand are "inexorably linked."

It ranked highest under "can't live without it" and "frequency of use."

According to the MBLM report, nobody surrounds and involves the consumer better than Apple. It brings "connected" to a whole new level.

Said Leventhal in his article: “There have also been rumblings about Apple buying health IT vendor Athenahealth, as recently recommended by a Citigroup analyst. While that is perhaps premature, several other pieces to the puzzle feel more real. In the end, when you consider the company’s unique market positioning, with all of the advantages Apple has that no other tech company can match, this certainly is not something I would bet against.”

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