Inside sources say Apple pursued talks to buy medical clinics

Apple was reportedly in talks to purchase Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Crossover Health, a healthcare startup that works with self-insured employers to provide medical and wellness services at onsite clinics. The move heightens speculation about the tech giant's potential foray into the healthcare space, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNBC.

Negotiations between the two organizations reportedly lasted "months" but did not end in a deal, according to one source. Two other sources claimed Apple also approached San Francisco-based One Medical, a concierge medicine primary care organization, the report states.

Sources told CNBC Apple's health team has discussed expanding into the primary care sector for more than a year. However, it is unclear if the company aims to build its own network of primary care clinics, similar to the format of its retail stores, or whether it would partner with existing medical organizations.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has also publicly expressed interest in the numerous business opportunities the healthcare sector may provide. In a September interview with Fortune, Mr. Cook said, "There's much more in the health area. There's a lot of stuff I can't tell you about that [Apple is] working on, some of which it's clear there's a commercial business there … I do think it's a big area for Apple's future."

In conjunction with Mr. Cook's sentiments, Apple has hired "dozens" of health consultants and medical experts in recent years, including Sumbul Desai, MD, the former executive director of the Stanford (Calif.) Medicine Center for Digital Health. The company reportedly hired Dr. Desai in June to a senior position to promote the various health uses for its Apple Watch.

The tech giant has partnered with researchers at Stanford to improve its digital health software and make the iPhone "the central repository for patient health information," the report states. The company also previously released two software tools — Apple's HealthKit and ResearchKit — to share patients' health information with third-party developers and recruit patients for clinical studies, respectively.

Richard V. Milani, MD, chief clinical transformation officer and vice chairman for the department of cardiology at Jefferson, La.-based Ochsner Health System, told CNBC Apple's foray into the healthcare space may prove to be incredibly beneficial for the industry.

"Such a move wouldn't surprise me as Apple has demonstrated that its interest in health care isn't superficial," said Dr. Milani. "Primary care is in great need of re-imagining and rethinking."

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