Apple moves deeper into healthcare in 2020: 9 things to know

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Apple remains largely focused on developing consumer-facing applications in healthcare, and the company's Health Records app stands to gain from the interoperability rules going into effect next year.

In 2020, Apple signed several partnerships to assist in the COVID-19 response while continuing to study how the Apple Watch can help with early identification of heart issues. Here are nine things to know about Apple's moves in healthcare in the last year:

1. In December, Apple CEO Tom Cook was a guest on the Outside podcast, where he discussed the company's healthcare strategy. He said health and wellness will be the company's biggest contribution to society. For now, Apple remains focused on the wearables and consumer health, including the atrial fibrillation and ECG functions in the Apple Watch.

"We thought it was a big idea to continuously monitor the heart. What we didn't necessarily predict was all of these cases were going to come out of it where the person told us, 'I would not have been here any longer. Do you understand? This is life-changing for me,'" he said.

2. Apple continued to roll out its Health Records app at new hospitals, including five in Canada and the UK.

3. In September, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs signed a deal with Apple to provide more than 50,000 veterans with cellular-enabled iPads to access virtual care services.

4. The Apple Watch Series 6 launched in September with new healthcare-tracking and measuring capabilities. The watch has an advanced algorithm built into an app designed to measure blood oxygen levels.

5. Apple partnered with Google this spring to develop exposure notification app technology. The app detects when users are close to someone who tests positive for COVID-19. States and health systems, including University of California San Diego Health, have used the technology for contact tracing.

6. Apple partnered with Stanford (Calif.) Medicine to build an app connecting first responders in California to drive-thru COVID-19 testing locations in April.

7. In March, Apple partnered with the White House and CDC to develop a website and app that provided information on the pandemic and a screening tool for COVID-19 symptoms.

8. Apple and Johnson & Johnson began enrolling patients in a joint study to test whether iPhones and Apple Watches can speed the detection of atrial fibrillation for people ages 65 and older.

9. In January, Apple met with several healthcare stakeholders to discuss interoperability priorities ahead of the final interoperability rule. Implementation of the rule was delayed during the pandemic but scheduled to begin in 2021.

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