6 things to know about Apple's foray into healthcare

Rumors have long swirled around Apple's push into the healthcare industry. After all, prior to Steve Jobs' death in 2011 from pancreatic cancer, he made it Apple's goal to fix some of healthcare's challenges.

Apple has largely held onto this vision of improving healthcare. Recently, the technology company announced key partnerships, acquisitions and plans that indicate it may enter the healthcare sphere at full speed soon.

Here are six things to know about Apple and its move into healthcare.

1. In May, Apple CEO Tim Cook said healthcare presents a significant opportunity for the company. Speaking at Startup Fest Europe in Amsterdam, Mr. Cook highlighted opportunities to develop tools to simplify and improve healthcare, starting with the Apple Watch. "One day, this is my prediction, we will look back and we will wonder: How can I ever have gone without the watch? Because the holy grail of the watch is being able to monitor more and more of what's going on in the body," Mr. Cook said. 

2. For the past few years, Apple has been turning its devices and platforms into research and data collection tools. ResearchKit is an open source framework that researchers and developers can use to conduct studies, gathering data from participants using iPhones. Earlier this year, Apple acquired Gliimpse, a startup that enables users to aggregate data from multiple sources into one place.

3. However, Apple plans to move from monitoring and data aggregation to diagnostic capabilities, reports Bloomberg. People familiar with Apple's plans told Bloomberg the goal is to turn HealthKit, which stores health-related data from apps and devices, into a tool to improve diagnoses. 

4. Apple's focus is to create easy-to-use tools and devices for consumers. The company appears to want to bring these same design principles to healthcare, which is often criticized for being not very user friendly, for providers and patients alike. Earlier this summer, Apple announced plans to let consumers download provider visit summaries directly to their phones through HealthKit, a move which Politico said is a step in the direction health IT and patient advocates applaud.

"Unhappiness with EHR technology has led consumer advocates and health IT advocates to push for personal health recordkeeping. The construction of a consumer product that aggregated patient health and fitness data, and offered nudges when appropriate, would fulfill many fond wishes from policymakers," according to the report.

5. Leading all these changes are all of Apple's recently hired healthcare and digital health professionals. Some high-profile hires include Google X co-founder Yoky Matsuoka, PhD; Stanford pediatric endocrinologist Rajiv Kumar, MD; and "YouTube" physician and digital health advocate Mike Evans, MD. In May, Apple posted a job listing seeking a lawyer specializing in health privacy. Additionally, Politico reports Apple's staff specializing in healthcare "has ballooned" to close to 100 individuals.

6. The company that has pushed the envelope in smartphones and personal devices appears to be ready to take on healthcare. "Health is a huge issue around the world and we thin kit's ripe for simplicity and a new view," Mr. Cook said at Startup Fest, according to Bloomberg

More articles on health IT:

This reporter tried to gather all his medical records in 72 hours. Here's what happened
New Jersey Spine Center pays ransom to hackers after 'seeing no other option'
Balancing technology with  healthcare's human narrative: A Q&A with Dr. Abha Agrawal

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