Health IT

Tim Cook offers a glimpse of Apple’s healthcare future

As Apple prepares to pull the wraps off the latest model of its iPhone tomorrow, CEO Tim Cook touched on the company’s different approaches to healthcare and how that will factor into the future of the company in an interview with Fortune.

Apple CEO Tim Cook

As Apple prepares to pull the wraps off the latest model of its iPhone tomorrow, CEO Tim Cook shared his excitement about’s Apple’s healthcare applications and the role it will play in the future of the company in an interview with Fortune.

Although Apple has indicated its interest in healthcare before, Cook noted that the company is particularly interested in medical activity.

We’re extremely interested in this area. And, yes, it is a business opportunity. If you look at it, medical health activity is the largest or second-largest component of the economy, depending on which country in the world you’re dealing with. And it hasn’t been constructed in a way where the focus at the device level is making great products from a pure point of view. The focus has been on making products that can get reimbursed through the insurance companies, through Medicare, or through Medicaid. And so in some ways we bring a totally fresh view into this and say, ‘Forget all of that. What will help people?’

Cook drew attention to Apple’s heart monitoring technology on its smartwatch heart rate readings, which a Stanford University study earlier this year found to be more accurate than seven other wearable devices. Like Fitbit executives, Cook noted that its device alerted users to a potential heart problem and was able to share heart rate data with doctors. He said, “a not-insignificant number have found out if they hadn’t come into the doctor they would have died.”

He also suggested that ResearchKit, while a great way to modernize and enable large clinical studies, doesn’t have a business model and that it was one of the things the business did for the betterment of society. Although that sounds noble it’s not entirely convincing. It’s possible that the data generated from these studies will factor into longer-term opportunities. In any case, the company isn’t disclosing its big plans yet.

Apple’s moves in healthcare have significant ramifications from health app developers to medical device companies such as DexCom to patients and clinicians. When Apple added technology to improve connectivity for the smartwatch with hardware devices such as continuous glucose meters, it boosted DexCom’s share price.

Given how attached we’ve become to our smartphones, Apple and other mobile technology companies will continue to add ways of harnessing these phones to support passive and active healthcare applications. For example, ImageMoverMD’s image storage tools balance the desire by physicians to use their smartphones or tablets to take patient pictures for clinical consults with hospitals’ data security needs.

As Cook noted in the interview, the company is just scratching the surface of its capabilities. It will be exciting to see what comes next in Apple’s healthcare toolkit.

Photo: Stephen Lam, Getty Images