The big news everyone is excited about from last week’s Apple event is the iPhone X, with its Super Retina display, depth-sensing camera and facial recognition feature. Apple really outdid themselves this time, and I’ll be one of the first in line to buy the new iPhone in November.
But the big news from a healthcare perspective is the Apple Watch Series 3, which proves straight up that Apple is now a substantial player in the healthcare industry. This is a major shift from nine years ago when we launched Voalte and heard repeatedly from healthcare executives that they would never use iPhones in their hospitals. Today, I wouldn’t be surprised if iOS were the most pervasive operating system in healthcare, with devices like iPads, iPods and Mac computers now ubiquitous in the hospital setting.
Apple ventured into healthcare in 2015 with a Health app to help consumers keep up with their fitness regimens, and ResearchKit and CareKit for a developer framework that supports broad-scale medical trials. Now, it’s clear Apple is diving headfirst into the healthcare market, purchasing sleep-tracking startup Beddit earlier this year, developing health monitoring apps, and forming a partnership with Stanford Medicine to use data from Apple Watch to identify irregular heart rhythms.
More accurate sensors.
When Apple Watch debuted a couple years ago, I wrote about how some critics were bashing its inadequate battery life and imperfect health sensors. As I wrote back then, those perceived shortcomings were minor compared to the enormous potential of gathering health data that can then be shared, analyzed and used as a diagnostic medical tool. The Series 3 eliminates the old challenges and includes enhancements such as built-in cellular, a faster dual-core processor and a new wireless chip. But it’s the sensor advancements that make all the difference.
Here’s how Apple describes its heart rate sensors:
Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light-sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist at any given moment. When your heart beats, the blood flow in your wrist—and the green light absorption—is greater. Between beats, it’s less. By flashing its LED lights hundreds of times per second, Apple Watch can calculate the number of times the heart beats each minute—your heart rate.
More valuable data.
Apple Watch gathers and tracks data throughout the day on your resting heart rate, recovery time and elevated heart rates. The Apple Heart Study, launching later this year in conjunction with Stanford, will enable notification of irregular heart rhythms, which could signal potentially serious conditions, such as atrial fibrillation. This represents Apple’s first foray into pervasive health monitoring, and it’s just the beginning of what we’re likely to see as the company becomes a substantial player in the healthcare market.
In a recent interview with Fortune, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “If you look at it, medical health activity is the largest or second-largest component of the economy, depending on which country in the world you’re dealing with. And it hasn’t been constructed in a way where the focus at the device level is making great products from a pure point of view. The focus has been on making products that can get reimbursed through the insurance companies, through Medicare, or through Medicaid. And so in some ways we bring a totally fresh view into this and say, ‘Forget all of that. What will help people?’”
I personally couldn’t be more excited about the implications of taking a “fresh view” and making great products that will help improve peoples’ health.
Trey Lauderdale is Founder and CEO of Voalte.