Apple reportedly explored setting up primary care clinics, with Apple Watch relaying health data to Apple doctors

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Apple had considered setting up an in-house medical service that would offer primary care clinics with doctors employed by Apple. The Journal says the company was exploring how the Apple Watch could be used to improve healthcare.

This project was envisioned in 2016 but has seemingly been put on pause, partly because Apple’s dogfooding of a similar project for its own employees saw limited use.

Apple COO Jeff Williams had apparently tasked his team with coming up of ways to disrupt the traditional health industry, where patients only see doctors when something goes wrong.

The tabled plan was to offer a subscription health service that would combine virtual and in-person care provided by Apple doctors, enhanced with continuous health monitoring by the customer’s Apple Watch and iPhone.

According to the report, Apple used employee health clinics near Apple Park as a test bed for the scheme. However, the project has not advanced much in the intervening years. The Journal says some employees have criticized the accuracy of the data being collected at the employee clinics.

The Journal cites one anecdote from an internal meeting.

Employees concerned about the culture pointed to a 2019 meeting during which a midlevel manager raised questions about data, according to people familiar with the meeting and the documents. Dr. Desai responded angrily, leading some present to conclude that critical questions were unwelcome, according to the people and the documents. The manager left Apple weeks later and the episode contributed to her departure, documents show.

Apple’s spokesman said Dr. Desai spoke to the importance of data integrity in the meeting. “This matter was investigated thoroughly and the allegations could not be substantiated,” the spokesman said. Apple declined to comment on the circumstances of the employee’s departure. 

In response to the piece, an Apple representative said that many of the claims are “based on incomplete, outdated and inaccurate information.”

So far, Apple has contributed to the health space through sensors and data tracking via its devices. The company has popularized heart rate monitoring, fall detection, and ECG features via the Apple Watch. It collates health and fitness metrics through the HealthKit database, which users can review through the Health app on iPhone and Apple Watch.

At WWDC, Apple announced a new “walking steadiness” measurement and the ability to share health data directly with partnered doctors. The Health app in iOS 15 also automatically notifies users about dramatic changes in long-term trends of their health data.

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