Apple has healthcare in its sights.
The company’s hired top scientists. It’s partnered with leading hospitals. It’s designed new software platforms, like HealthKit and ResearchKit, intended to turn Apple AAPL -1.82% into a central repository for clinical data and clinical trials, respectively.
And there’s no better evidence of Apple’s ambitions than how executives spent the first 10 minutes of Wednesday’s live event: They mostly talked about healthcare — and how Apple Watch is going to change it.
CEO Tim Cook celebrated how Apple Watch is “making days better” for its users, by getting them moving.
Top executive Jeff Williams demonstrated how Apple Watch helps doctors track their patients and prioritize their schedules.
And then Dr. Cameron Powell took the stage to explain how physicians can now start to use his product, AirStrip, to monitor patient vitals through the Watch.
AirStrip’s already been used to care for millions of pregnant women in hospitals, but through Apple Watch — and its new watchOS2 software — doctors can remotely monitor a fetal heart rate, in case of high-risk pregnancies. Even when the pregnant mother is many miles away, at home.
But let’s be clear: When it comes to healthcare, Apple’s still very far from changing the game. They’re barely on the field, to be honest.
A few million Americans might use Apple products to count their steps or monitor their health, but these are disproportionately early adopters and unlikely to be the high-cost, chronically ill patients who most need interventions.
Meanwhile, the company faces plenty of competition with various trackers and software solutions, which have all made their own promises to change remote monitoring and mobile health.
But Apple is trying to position itself as the go-to for consumers and clinicians alike. And on that count, it might be right.
The company’s popularity is legendary and shows no signs of flagging; Apple has sold 180 million iPhones in the past year.
And doctors love their Apple devices. According to Doximity, physicians are notorious iPhone fans; they bought the iPhone 5 at a rate that was four times faster than the general population.
Meanwhile, Apple’s struck deals with Mayo Clinic , Johns Hopkins and other leading health systems. They’ve worked out arrangements with important industry players like Epic , the nation’s leading provider of electronic health records, to feed Apple HealthKit data directly into patients’ charts.
If Apple can leverage these partnerships to push into patient care and clinical data, that opens a huge new market for the company: The nation spends $3 trillion on healthcare every year.
Of course, many innovators over the years have promised to “transform” healthcare. Most have failed, not surprisingly. But no company has more size, scale or a track record in transforming an industry than Apple.