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How science, research, collaboration are at the heart of Apple’s increasing focus on your health

Is eight years a long time? When you talk in terms of technology, it certainly seems so. If 10 years ago, someone would have told you that health would become an extremely serious business for Apple, you wouldn’t have believed it. The arrival of Apple Watch, however, changed that perception and changed how Apple works on health and fitness. However, a year before the Apple Watch arrived, came the Health app and that perhaps was the genesis of the significantly increasing focus on health.Now health is a serious — and complex — business for everyone and Apple knows that quite well.
Dr Sumbul Desai, vice president, health, Apple, believes that although it has been eight years since the Health app was launched and seven years to the Apple Watch, these are still very early days for the company in the field of health. That’s because there are too many areas to focus on and — pardon the cliché — but Apple is just getting started. When watchOS 9 rolls out later this year, the Watch and iPhone will offer features that focus on 17 areas of health and fitness. Dr Desai spoke to The Times of India-Gadgets Now on a number of topics, including Apple’s approach towards users’ health, the role of science and collaborating with doctors before rolling out features that users end up using on their devices.

Apple’s measured view of users’ health

Apple has been extremely measured in introducing health and fitness features on its devices. After all it is people’s health at stake and there are too many things to consider. Think about it. A human body is extremely complex — as are human beings. Then there is the technological challenge of integrating features in devices — another complex area. Working with physicians and specialists from across the world is also a challenging task. Yet, if you have used an Apple Watch or health features on iPhone, it all seems remarkably simple. A lot of that happens because, as Dr Desai put its, Apple doesn’t believe in the one size fits all — science dictates everything Apple does. Citing the example of the Afib feature, Desai explains that how clinical research studies were conducted first. Apple got the feedback from users as well as doctors and then collaborated with physicians before actually rolling it out to users. Every feature on the Apple Watch is well thought out and not rolled out because ‘everyone’ else is doing it.

Image courtesy: Apple

Desai talks about the medication reminder feature that will come with watchOS 9 later this year. The feature will remind users when to take medications. Not just that, it will also provide information about any potential negative “interactions”. For instance, if one has had alcohol then eating a certain medicine might not be good for them. “What this does is that it empowers users to learn more and actually talk to physicians about an area perhaps they wouldn’t have,” says Dr Desai.

All features are based on “scientific and clinical validation”

Dr Desai has been with the company for close to five years now and since then Apple has made huge strides. The ECG monitoring feature arrived on Apple Watch, more cardio related features have been introduced, fall detection and much more. Yet, Apple has always been categorical the Watch can never diagnose if anything is wrong with a person. It gives both the user and the doctor insights into a person’s health and then they can make an informed decision after consultation. Every feature that is available on the Apple Watch, says Desai, is introduced after “thorough scientific validation processes done in collaboration with doctors and health experts.”
At the core of all things health for Apple remains user empowerment. The idea behind Apple’s increasing focus on health isn’t to only sell devices. Apple, though has been the number one smartwatch brand in the world for a few years, and clearly wants its devices to reach as many users possible.Desai says the goal is to empower people to focus on their health and improve on it with the features available on Apple devices.
User privacy, Desai believes, is fundamentally important for Apple and more so when it comes to users’ health. Our features put our users’ privacy at the core and we give them transparency as well as control as it is sensitive health data we are dealing with,” she adds. A few years ago Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind will be in the field of health. If the last eight years are anything to go by and Apple’s increased focus in the field of health, Cook’s words may end up ringing true.