Apple's healthcare push stalled by employee departures

Apple's healthcare-related initiatives have struggled to gain traction, partially due to staff departures, The Wall Street Journal reported June 16. 

Apple has considered several ways to make a splash in healthcare, but many of the initiatives have stalled, according to the report. 

One such initiative was a subscription-based primary care healthcare service with Apple-employed physicians and its own clinics, an idea conceived in 2016 when Apple was trying to figure out how data collected from its Apple Watch users could be used to improve healthcare, according to the Journal.

According to documents obtained by the Journal, Apple thought that if it could prove the combination of its device, software and primary care service could improve health and lower costs, the company could expand the model to health systems. 

To help pilot the project, Apple decided to test the service on its employees. Apple started operating health clinics near its headquarters, and in 2017 hired Sumbul Desai, MD, from Stanford (Calif.) University to oversee the effort, internally dubbed Casper. Although Apple is still building the primary care centers, it has struggled, according to the report.  

The primary care clinic launch overseen by Dr. Desai has seen multiple staff departures, according to the report. The people who have left said that company culture discouraged feedback, and some employees have expressed concerns that internal data from the clinic is inaccurate or compiled haphazardly, the Journal reported. 

One employee said a midlevel manager left the company shortly after Dr. Desai responded angrily to the manager's questions about data at a 2019 meeting.

An Apple spokesperson told the Journal the incident was investigated thoroughly, and Apple is proud of Dr. Desai's work.

Another recent initiative that Dr. Desai's team launched is a digital health app called HealthHabit, which is being tested by Apple employees in California. It has reportedly struggled with engagement since launching six months ago, according to the report. 

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