Apple, more than the others, has been reticent to publicize its long-term vision for health technology. But recent product introductions, like the new health records feature, highlight how focused Apple is on using its iPhone, Apple Watch and apps to give people more control over their health care.
In addition to the iPhone Health app, Apple has developed ResearchKit, software to help researchers develop iPhone apps to conduct health studies, and HealthKit, a platform that allows consumers to share health data on their iPhone or Apple Watch with health and fitness apps. Apple is also sponsoring clinical research, called the Apple Heart Study, at Stanford University to determine whether an app for the Apple Watch can detect irregular heart rhythms.
A review of Apple’s current job openings also gives clues about the company’s wider ambitions in the health care sector.
According to the company’s site, Apple is seeking a hardware engineer to develop “next-generation” health sensors for products like the iPhone and iPad; software engineers for the company’s “health special projects team” to join “an exciting new project at an early stage”; an engineering manager for the company’s motion technologies team “to help shape the next set of groundbreaking features” in fitness and health; and a biomedical scientist to help design studies for health, wellness and physiological measurement apps.
“We will empower you to engage with a variety of internal teams and external partners to continually question the limitations of technology implemented in health products,” says an Apple job description for a health tech hardware development engineer.
Apple’s personal medical record feature is hardly a new idea. With much fanfare about a decade ago, both Google and Microsoft introduced free services — called Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault — that helped consumers centralize their personal health data.
But the concept of the personal medical record did not generate widespread adoption in that era, which predated the popularization of the iPhone and mobile apps. Google shut down Google Health in 2011. Microsoft still offers its HealthVault service.
An earlier version of this article misstated when Apple plans to allow consumers to try testing the new Health app feature that allows users to automatically download and see parts of their medical records on their iPhones. Consumers will be allowed to test a beta version of the feature on Thursday, not Friday.