Insider: Apple’s healthcare group is suffering

From Blake Dodge’s “Insiders in Apple’s healthcare organization say its leaders suppress concerns and mislead executives” posted Tuesday:

Apple’s half-decade push to reinvent healthcare is faltering.

The most valuable company, known for its nearly ubiquitous phones, computers, and watches, has made health central to its strategy — CEO Tim Cook has even pointed to health as the area where Apple will make its greatest contribution to mankind.

Several hundred engineers, program managers, data scientists, designers, and physicians are devoted to fulfilling Cook’s promise, exploring the best ways to put Apple’s magic touch on everything from medical research to doctor visits.

But early excitement unleashed by the Apple Watch’s capabilities, such as detecting abnormal heart rates, has been marred by a string of high-level departures and setbacks in the company’s health group. In August, Insider reported that Apple was scrapping an internal project called HealthHabit, which was designed to make Apple devices a vital link between patients and doctors.

It’s a symptom of what insiders say are deeper organizational problems that have left the health group without clear direction and struggling to mesh Apple’s hardware-oriented culture with the practices of the medical business.

People at Apple Health said that they saw colleagues face retribution for disagreeing with superiors and that concerns have been expressed on more than one occasion about the way health data is used to develop products. The situation has gotten so serious that some employees have lodged complaints with Apple’s most senior executives, including Cook and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who oversees the health effort.

My take: Apple PR came out with guns blazing, but Apple Watch still can’t measure blood sugar and AirPods still don’t work as hearing aids.

17 Comments

  1. Gregg Thurman said:
    Non-issue “news”. Apple hasn’t released a blood sugar sensor that fits into an Apple Watch (with everything else that’s inside). So what? Has anybody else?

    Neither has Apple released an electric vehicle. How many products has Samsung or Google or MSFT released that were quietly discounted. Hard to tell…nobody bought them.

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    October 6, 2021
  2. Gary Morton said:
    There are strong, deeply entrenched players in the healthcare space. Unfortunately, climbing a technology adoption curve in that arena is often less about the technology than it is about the politics. It is why healthcare remains the most significant global industry that has yet to reinvent itself, especially in the US: Little trust of AI, antiquated reimbursement approaches, focus on disease vs wellness, etc. Apple can make a difference over time, but mindsets change at a snail’s pace in medicine.

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    October 6, 2021
    • Dan Pallotta said:
      We are waiting for blood results for my Dad this morning from Quest Diagnostics. They are arriving via FAX.

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      October 6, 2021
      • Mordechai Beizer said:
        Dan, fwiw the Health app can import results from Quest Diagnostics. I’m always on the lookout for any providers of mine that play nicely with the Health app.

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        October 6, 2021
      • Robert Varipapa said:
        Continued use of Faxes in medicine is a direct result of the confusing HIPAA rules and regs. While regular mail and faxes are felt to be compliant, email and even encrypted text is not. Now there is a big push towards patient portals which tend to have confusing interfaces and poor user experiences.

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        October 6, 2021
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Gary Morton: Thumbs up Gary M! You nailed the issue and problem in your comments.

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      October 6, 2021
  3. Les Kaye said:
    Not sure why Quest would be faxing your dad’s results. My own annual lab results are available online from Quest just 2-3 days after – even before I see my doctor. I’m in L.A. if that makes a difference.

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    October 6, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      My daughter has Quest labs ordered by her UCLA doctors, drawn by a home health nurse through our enteral feeding provider. bloodwork dropped off and processed immediately at Quest. But because lab results are by Quest, and not a UCLA lab, results cannot be input into UCLA’s electronic medical record (Epic, no relation to Epic games). UCLA gets an emailed or scanned copy of the lab results which are input as a file in “outside labs” only. I have access to Quest’s patient portal which lists the labs one at a time or as a single large report.

      The problem is, the UCLA docs cannot get data input for analysis, graphing, trending over time, and other specific test and data analysis. They can do this with internally generated lab data both inpatient and outpatient but not with outside labs.

      To me, in 2021, after 20+ years of freaking computer advances and electronic medical records development, it is INFURIATING that hospitals, medical systems, outpatient doctors, laboratories, outside test and imaging results plus images themselves are NOT a shareable and more easily communicated in commonly agreed or standardized secure formats – everyone wants to have their own somewhat proprietary system (to make $$$$$ and market share). The appropriate concerns about data security and integrity are confounded with entrenched companies making data sharing DIFFICULT, if not impossible, and the use of antiquated fax and paper systems illustrate the lack of vision and interest in a solution. Pharmacies are STILL NOT tied into central databases so that patient prescriptions from multiple providers cannot be tracked in real time and red flags placed against abusive patients and offending and enabling physicians.

      Top that with the common and well know stalling and obsfucation tactics of health insurance companies (Anthem Blue Cross is the worst) trying to limit payouts and handing the bag to patients and healthcare delivery, and it’s no wonder patient care, reimbursement, and costs are so F***ed up in the US.

      I want Apple to help create systems that would solve these issues and drag, nay, YANK and DISRUPT the “good ole boy” healthcare industry into a much better health informatics structure. That would be a giant first step.

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      October 6, 2021
  4. Peter Kropf said:
    A little outside the scope of this article, but surprising to me:

    Everyone has a fiefdom. I live in Charlottesville VA and we have two hospital groups: Sentara Health and UVA. Both of them use //the same web based app – MyChart//.

    I have a login for MyChart Sentara and another for MyChart UVA – My medical data is split between the two. There is no MyChart “me”. There is only me UVA and me Sentara. The current state of affairs is that the doctors from UVA and Sentara have access to both data sets and can access “me” by combining the data from both by reading each separately. It must drive them bonkers to have to check into both sets to get “me”.

    Needless to say, I have to login twice to get to my health data too.

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    October 6, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      Well, you can blame HIPAA for a lot of the mess in medical records. The idea behind HIPAA was sound, to make sure medical data was adequately protected. But the actual execution has made any federation of data extremely problematic. It’s just much easier for each health care provider to implement its own data silo, than to get the combinatoric explosion of permissions to share data…

      And, of course, health care providers are not IT people, so they’re not going to lean forward in technology (which is just another piece of overhead cost…)

      4
      October 6, 2021
    • Mordechai Beizer said:
      My primary physician uses MyChart (from Epic) and I found out that without logging in anyplace else he could also see my records from two other local health systems that use MyChart. That’s progress of a sort. However, my data is still siloed within MyChart. What I really want is for MyChart to play nicely with Apple Health so that I can suck in my data from their silo. I think the problem is not MyChart in general but the particular implementation of MyChart at my provider’s health system. It seems that they didn’t turn on the “Allow export to Apple Health” bit in their MyChart implementation.

      Progress is so slow.

      2
      October 6, 2021
    • Alan Birnbaum said:
      The problem of ‘Silo’ ing medical data has been a problem since 2011. My small group tried to write an rheumatology EMR, but we gave up because the hospitals would NOT share data ( initially it was a requirement for EMR co’s to do so, but somehow it was changed by pressure from The Big guys – Epic, Cerner, Athena, I’m looking at you). HIPPA is the excuse they give to prevent the requirement for portability.

      2
      October 6, 2021
  5. Les Kaye said:
    Awesome Mordechai! I’ve been accessing my results from Quest’s own site directly. With a simple import, I can now see 5 years of Quest records in Apple Health! Cool!

    0
    October 6, 2021
  6. Fred Stein said:
    Gossip, nothing more.

    Apple will get there. They always do. And maybe there are real HR issues, or maybe there or just some disgruntled employees, or both.

    Globally health care is $16T. Just one area, clinical trials is $64B (back in 2017). Already fall detectors and Apple’s “EGC” can save lives.

    Yes, hearing aids and blood sugar monitoring will be great. We’ll have to wait.

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    October 6, 2021
  7. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    “Apple’s half-decade push to reinvent healthcare is faltering.”

    Half decade = 5 years, last I checked, so how can you cite something to be “faltering” where the timespan for “reinventing” healthcare, one of the most entrenched, important and all-encompassing systems affecting a population, would probably take decades to be solidly effective?

    Opinions on Apple’s methods can be SO often myopic when Apple obviously plays the slow hand. A chick cracks its shell when ready. Not before.

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    October 6, 2021

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