25 Nov TECH UPDATE 2020: TECHNOLOGY AND HEALTH
Who makes money when you’re counting your steps?
A year or so ago, when the Apple share price was tumbling (it is now at an all-time high) a beleaguered Tim Cook, being interviewed by Jim Cramer, a confrontational Wall Street pundit, said – at the end of a fairly combative session “If you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’ It will be about health.”
HEALTH? Wait, what?
If you’ve an iPhone you’ll have seen that little white square, with the red heart icon in the corner – Apple’s Healthapp. If you dig into it a little, you’ll discover you can enter information regarding blood type, the contact details of your next of kin, and everything in between. It shows the number of steps you’ve taken (when you had your phone with you, or another connected device like a FitBit or an Apple Watch) and can also present information regarding nutrition, sleep, respiratory performance, BMI, hearing – even mindfulness and ovulation. So how does it get this? Well Apple have developer tools available to other companies so that they can easily ‘connect’ their devices or platforms to the Apple Health platform – whether that is a weighing scale or a smart insulin delivery system. In fact Apple have made their own acquisitions in this space, including a company with technology to measure how well you sleep.
And, wait, if you keep scrolling down you find a space to view medical records, clinical measurements, immunisations, medication doses etc. A pretty comprehensive view. So what are Apple doing here? Well – they are aggregating and connecting data, from IoT devices, other platforms, other vendors, insurers and physicians. They want to become a trusted broker on health (which they will be if they continue offering a virtuous circle of increasing user numbers (low friction) and more integrations (a simple win for developers and hardware companies). They are trying to be the operating system for health – a reliable, non-negotiable integration point – a bit like Microsoft were in the 80’s and 90’s with Windows. There is a huge value being ‘in the middle’ – just look at what they’ve created with payment.
The greatest value is in ‘healthcare efficiency’ – encouraging people to exercise more, improve their diet and sleep properly. That generates better results than ‘treatment’. In fact a couple of years ago Apple, Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway got together to build a healthcare company, focussing initially on their own, substantial, staff numbers. Why might they do that, you ask? Well, at last count, the annual value of the US health insurance market alone exceeded (places little finger in mouth, a la Dr Evil) one trillion dollars.