According to the release of the Apple Health Record and Apple Watch Series 4 with a single-lead ECG, we can clearly see, that Apple’s hunger for digital health solutions is bigger and bigger. The huge eHealth market will only grow with a little help from Tim Cook’s team. What’s the strategy of Apple?
I share my opinion on the direction in which Apple is moving in digital health. I based my data mainly on the report CB Insights report.
Apple’s influence on digital health trends. From a step tracker to telemedicine
A few years ago Apple’s focus was on the wellness market with a step tracker and a calendar to check basic activity. Today it seems that complex digital health solutions are taking the lead. Thanks to wearables and collecting data real-time, we can protect our health proactively (not reactively, when feeling ill).
Smartphones and smartwatches are huge data carriers not only about our physical activities but also mindfulness, sleep, glucose levels, alcohol content, nutrition, period trackers and more. Why not use this data in applications and services like e.g. telemedicine, coaching, chatbots?
There’re startups that build devices specifically to work with Apple products, e.g. Butterfly Network (portable ultrasound), AliveCor (multiple lead ECG), and Cellscope (iPhone otoscope).
What’s more, the Apple Watch Series 4 itself provides not only a single lead electrocardiogram (ECG) but also has fall detection, that’s especially important for the elderly.
This is an important change when we realize that it started with very simple pedometers and activity/fitness trackers like Fitbit or Jawbone, which helped the most overweight and obese people. These solutions helped to make people aware that we have too little physical activity on a daily basis.
However, devices are not enough — the most important are applications for them, their functionalities, thanks to which it was possible to monitor activity, sleep, track goals, extract archival data and draw conclusions.
Apple’s searching for the elderly
To the CB Insights research from 2014, Apple products were used mostly by high-income and young population. I’m convinced that from year to year the difference is decreasing, but only slightly. Today a strong entry into digital health solutions can attract a group that has a smaller budget and is a bit older.
This is unbelievable, but iPhone’s entire user base in The United States only numbers around 86M. For comparison, UnitedHealthcare has 50M members. That’s enormous target group and data repository.
It’s also important that Apple is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, while healthcare players have very little recognition. That’s a huge advantage for Apple Watch, but also for other fitness & health smartwatches like Fitbit, Misfit or Garmin. TomTom or Suunto are also increasingly available to travelers, providing them with maps, routes, and elevations. This makes watches more and more versatile.
Why digital health = mobile health?
We’re surrounded by a lot of electronics every day. Additional devices are not convenient for the end user, so the most reasonable in digital health is to use smartphones and smartwatches, that we already have and which we use constantly. The transfer of data should also take place without the involvement of the user.
In diabetes prevention, mental health and medication adherence/compliance mobile is positioned as a central technology.
Already in 2017 information about the possibility of using blockchain in digital health appeared. There’re 3 emerging blockchain innovation areas to watch: Artificial Intelligence, Precision Medicine and Genomics.
From our perspective and many years of cooperation with products from the areas of IoT and digital health or FemTech (e.g. Elvie Pump, MysteryVibe) we can see that even if the device can work independently, all its control and analysis of the results takes place on the smartphone.
How big is the digital health market (and FemTech)?
In eHealth, the most mature markets are the United States and the United Kingdom. Despite this, markets such as India, Indonesia, and China are growing fast.
What’s interesting, the greatest market potential has diabetes, obesity, depression, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.
More numbers on the enormity of digital health market:
The huge success of Chiaro, the creator of Elvie Pump and Elvie Trainer, only shows how great is the potential of FemTech. I’d like to remind you that Elvie Pump won as many as 5 awards at CES 2018:
- USA Today Editors’ Choice Award,
- Forbes list of top 5 BabyTech gadgets,
- Wired list of coolest stuff seen at CES,
- CES Babylist Best of Babytech Award,
- CES 2019 Innovation Honouree in Wearables Tech.
What about Elvie Trainer? It’s recommended by over 1,000 health professionals Kegel trainer for pelvic floor treatment. The device has received many awards and has been successful all over the world. It’s recommended by such stars as Gwyneth Paltrow and Khloe Kardashian, who consider it to be top devices and applications for improving women’s health and comfort in life.
Apple is entering the digital health market more and more strongly, trying to attract an older and less well-off target group. With up to 86M people in the U.S. using their phones, it is possible to implement solutions on a massive scale to help monitor and respond to health issues.
Smartphones and smartwatches are devices that are not only supposed to provide us with entertainment or be an essential tool for work & life. They are slowly becoming a command center, collecting information about our physical and mental health.
It is only a matter of time, when we move from passive walking to doctors, when we feel worse, to proactive health care through the phone or watch, often without leaving home.