Apple Primary Care isn’t coming any time soon—here’s why the Watch is a better product because of it

The news: Apple’s ambitious attempt at disrupting healthcare by planning to offer primary care medicine has stalled per The Wall Street Journal. The report emphasizes the scope of Apple’s efforts to create a healthcare platform involving its own primary care services, clinics, and Apple-employed doctors.

Apple spent months trying to digest the flood of wellness data collected from Apple Watch users in 2016. Combining device sensors, software, and services, Apple aimed to provide healthcare services at a lower cost. While this wider healthcare pivot stalled, Apple focused its efforts into making its health tracking apps and Apple Watch wearable better.

What this means: The report reveals how difficult disrupting healthcare is even for the biggest technology companies.

  • Apple’s efforts echo similar health overtures made by Amazon with its now-shuttered Haven joint venture, which aimed to use technology to reduce costs for employees.
  • Microsoft’s HealthVault, a web-based personal health record for fitness information also shut down before it took off.
  • And IBM’s Watson Health was another ill-fated attempt to use computational superiority and AI for the service of healthcare.

The opportunity: Throwing technology at healthcare’s problems without understanding their complexities can only go so far. For its part, Apple’s participated in various health studies and has a dedicated Research app to better decipher common health risks. The company has also initiated pilot programs in tandem with leading hospitals to better understand the challenges.

Apple’s advantage over its competitors is that it already has a large and growing base of users who trust it with health data. And its products have seen success in improving people’s health.

Further, Apple is well positioned to take on healthcare in the near future as its innovations gain ground: It’s new health records feature is now supported by the Mayo Clinic, and the upcoming iOS 15 operating system is unveiling new health tracking features as well as the ability to determine trends in a person’s health.

For more on what an Apple Primary Care service could mean for the virtual care space, read this article from our Digital Health Briefing.

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