At Isabel we have blogged about, talked about and even researched the ideas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare extensively, so the concept that technology has a place in the world of healthcare is not new to us. Indeed, Isabel itself is considered to be AI, as its complex algorithms and deep learning system allow it to learn new clinical features as people use it, meaning it can cover an almost infinite number of signs and symptoms and match them to over 10,000 diagnoses. This week Apple have announced that they will be bringing their employee healthcare in-house, with what they are saying will be a “unique concierge-like healthcare experience” that is “enabled by technology.” As what many would call the leaders in technology advancement today, it is exciting to think what Apple healthcare may look like, and how these two worlds may collide.
What is the AC Wellness Network?
A website for a new organisation called the “AC Wellness network” has appeared, currently showing only a few pages explaining Apple’s healthcare plans. In Spring 2018 they will be launching two clinics in Santa Clara County, California, close to the Apple Park where a majority of their 120,000 employees work. The website suggests they are currently open for applications to a variety of healthcare roles, and they are certainly setting their sights high: “Candidates must have an appreciation for the patient experience and passion for wellness and population health - integrating best clinical practices and technology in a manner that drives patient engagement.”
Why are Apple launching their own Healthcare clinics?
The website is, in true Apple style, quite secretive and doesn’t give too much away. It is thought, however, that this move from Apple is for a few reasons, the most obvious being costs. Moving from their current system, in which they do have in-house healthcare but from a third party start-up called Crossover Health, to a truly in-house model with their own clinics, will probably save the company a lot. There are other, more impactful reasons though.
It cannot be ignored that Amazon have taken similar steps in recent months, and this may have had an impact of Apple’s decisions as well. Amazon have set up a partnership with two companies, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan in an attempt to bring their healthcare more in-house, and generally improve the methods and strategies around healthcare for their employees.
At Apple’s annual shareholder meeting this month, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook criticized the US healthcare and insurance system, stating that it “doesn’t always motivate the best innovative products.” Apple have a strong reputation for creating innovative products, with their customers at the heart of their decisions, and it is thought that by taking this into the world of healthcare, Apple hope to make an impact in this industry too. Cook said “the more and more time we spend on this, the more and more excited I am that Apple can make a significant contribution to people’s lives in this area.”
The impression that most people are getting is that these two clinics are just the beginning for Apple’s foray into the healthcare industry. Having their own in-house medical centres, with their own employees as first customers, means that they are more free to research and experiment new technologies that could impact healthcare. This is potentially the most significant reason for Apple having set up their centres, and the next few years could see big things emerging from the tech giant.
What does AC Wellness mean for Healthcare and AI?
At Isabel we have talked positively about intelligent and validated technologies that could help the medical field, and Isabel is one of the most accurate diagnostic tools available. We focus on improving the diagnostic process through our DDx Generator, research projects and creating a dialogue on diagnosis, and for a long time have been encouraging more discussions, research and studies into the world of diagnosis and AI. This move from Apple, and even the smaller move from Amazon, show exciting steps towards a technology and, more importantly, a patient led, healthcare model. We hope to see developments in all areas as well as diagnosis.
Technology is and will be for the foreseeable future an intrinsic part of our lives, and healthcare has such a large impact on those lives that it is natural for the two to go hand in hand. New technologies are being applied to the medical field every day and we encourage this use of such powerful digital resources to help, but not replace, the work of physicians and medical professionals.
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