Tech

The unfulfilled promise of Apple’s healthcare efforts

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A Nov. 1 Bloomberg report reveals how Apple, over the past decade, has embarked on an ambitious quest to revolutionize healthcare through its consumer electronics. However, the tech giant has faced significant challenges in moving beyond wellness monitoring into medical diagnosis and treatment.

The seeds of Apple’s healthcare vision were planted in 2011, when a secretive startup called Avolonte Health, funded by Apple, began work on a noninvasive blood sugar monitor for diabetics. This project was personally initiated by Steve Jobs shortly before his death. The goal was to free diabetics from frequent finger pricks using advanced optics to measure blood sugar through the skin.

Four years later, Apple unveiled the Apple Watch, envisioned initially as a health sensor hub featuring the Avolonte glucose monitor. Still, miniaturization issues forced Apple to market it as mainly a smartwatch. Consequently, the company pushed forward with developing advanced health features for the Apple Watch, including EKG, fall detection, and blood oxygen monitoring.

Behind the scenes, Apple worked on even more ambitious projects, including sleep trackers, nutrition monitoring, blood pressure cuffs, and Android compatibility. However, many were halted due to concerns over market demand, regulations, and medical risks.

At the core of Apple’s caution is a deep aversion to direct involvement in healthcare

The company has focused on selling devices and software for health monitoring, avoiding areas requiring medical licenses like diagnosis and treatment. While this minimizes regulatory burdens, it also represents a more limited vision of healthcare transformation.

Former employees cite conservative leadership as another key factor. Fears of damaging Apple’s reputation made executives wary of pushing into unproven medical territory. Internal health projects like app-based provider access faced low employee uptake and were scrapped.

Technological challenges have also played a role. Condensing medical-grade sensors and AI analytics into consumer gadgets has proven difficult. Accuracy, reliability, and safety remain elusive for more advanced diagnostic applications.

Today, Apple continues pursuing sensor advances like blood pressure monitoring while avoiding diagnostic endorsements. Its glucose monitor remains years away from the market. The company has downsized its ambitions of direct healthcare delivery.

Ultimately, Apple’s experience highlights the immense scientific and regulatory complexities of medtech innovation. Consumer tech culture clashed with the rigorous requirements of medical oversight.

Featured Image Credit: SHVETS Production; Pexels; Thank you!

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.

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