Apple’s entry into the digital healthcare market has caused quite a stir in the medical industry. The introduction of the HealthKit platform has generated tremendous interest across hospitals, clinics and medical professionals. Digital products are not new to medicine, which begs the question why is everyone so excited about HealthKit in particular?
HealthKit is a whole new technology platform from Apple which allows data that is collected from different sensors (Fitbit, Withings etc.) and devices (smart watches, phones, tablets etc.) to be aggregated and sent to physicians directly. Apple’s aim is to solve the last mile problem in bringing physicians and patients together: in general, health software is not consumer friendly and the devices which consumers do use are not connected to medical professionals. HealthKit can solve the problem from both ends.
What has the medical industry so excited about HealthKit is that it has the potential to spur developers, technology companies, hospitals and every other entity to create an ecosystem of apps and devices which can monitor patient health. Doctors hope that HealthKit can revolutionize digital health in the same way that it changed the way music is sold online through iTunes.
Apple’s reach among consumers and its marketing prowess is legendary. Over the past decade, the company has created many new categories of products ranging from smartphones to tablets. Although other companies have tried to solve some of the existing problems, no single entity has managed to gain traction. Alternatively, those that have managed to capture some market share are not in a position to scale up to millions of consumers. Those in the medical industry are positive that the entry of Apple will change all that.
There is a whole laundry list of obstacles that Apple must cross on its way to becoming the leader in digital healthcare. It is unlikely that the company will open up data from HealthKit to other platforms and there are millions of consumers who do not use Apple products. Further, regulators may have privacy and data quality issues which need to be addressed. Nevertheless, if any company can kickstart a new digital health ecosystem, it is certainly Apple.
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