Apple Is Making a Mistake Acquiring Gliimpse

The big news this week was that Apple has acquired PHR vendor Gliimpse. This was supposedly the first acquisition by Apple’s new Digital Health team. Plus, it’s the first big news since Tim Cook commented that Apple’s opportunity in healthcare “may even make the smartphone market look small.”

Many are touting this as a the start of the move by Apple into healthcare. No doubt it’s interesting that Apple would make a vertical acquisition like this, but it’s a mistake. Unfortunately, it’s a mistake that Apple is likely to do over and over again.

Apple certainly was and in many respects still is in a unique position to be able to innovate in healthcare thanks to its massive iPhone user population. They really could do some interesting things in healthcare since so many people have iPhones and so many healthcare companies want to say they’re working with Apple. The problem is that Apple doesn’t understand healthcare.

If you think this is a small thing, you’ve probably never tried to do a healthcare startup company. Healthcare is a unique market and requires a unique understanding to be successful. All the bravado in the world will only get you so far in the world of healthcare. Then, the harsh realities set in and you realize that the current against you is a lot stronger than you first realized.

Let’s take the example of the PHR Gliimpse (and generalizing to any PHR). This is a hard market with very little consumer demand. That’s been proven over and over again by hundreds of companies who have tried. The harsh reality is that most patients don’t care enough about their health to want to aggregate their health record. It’s worth noting that aggregating your health record is hard work. I even know one company that is paying doctors to send them health records and even then it’s hard to get doctors to act. Plus, there’s little value to healthy patients if they actually did aggregate their record. This is a tough, tough business.

Certainly, a case can be made for chronic patients that it’s worth the effort to aggregate this data into a PHR. Many have been doing this out of necessity. It was happening before cell phones became ubiquitous as people carried around massive folders or binders with their health records. While this value is understood, this makes for an extremely small market. When did Apple last do good in a small market? Is Apple going to really give up iPhone real estate when only a small portion of their users can actually get value from the PHR?

It’s great to have Apple interested in healthcare. However, I think the acquisition of a PHR company is a mistake and won’t yield them the rewards in healthcare that they seek. Of course, when you have a few billion to spend, what’s a few million on a PHR company? No doubt it’s a really small bet by Apple, but one that I don’t think will pay off for them. At least now they’ll have some people with health experience on the team and maybe they can innovate something new.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

4 Comments

  • “This is a hard market with very little consumer demand. That’s been proven over and over again by hundreds of companies who have tried. The harsh reality is that most patients don’t care enough about their health to want to aggregate their health record. It’s worth noting that aggregating your health record is hard work. I even know one company that is paying doctors to send them health records and even then it’s hard to get doctors to act. Plus, there’s little value to healthy patients if they actually did aggregate their record. This is a tough, tough business.”

    You nailed this, John.

    Apple’s most successful features and products are rooted in a) limiting features and customization and b) playing within the Apple ecosystem (iPhone, iPad, iMac, etc.).

    I realize this is much more patient-facing than clinical staff-facing, so the feature/customization limits might be okay (whereas they might not be tolerated by docs, CIOs, etc.), but the ecosystem issue will likely be a problem unless (or until) they can convince some of the big players (Epic and Cerner, especially) to make this a high priority.

    Now, maybe those groups would jump at the chance to work with Apple in this regard, but I’m with you — it doesn’t feel like a huge success just waiting to happen.

  • Darin,
    This is more patient facing, but the patient can’t get most of the value out of it without the clinican involvement. So, that’s where I think it will break down.

  • I don’t think the ‘deciders’ at Apple really understood what Gliimpse actually has. Now, to be sure, I’m not privy to all the minute details of what Gliimpse software can do. But I’ve been in this business for 20+ years – almost all of those years being involved with systems integration – and getting data in a scalable manner from the hundreds of distinct EHR’s is nigh impossible. I wrote this post specifically on Apples purchase of Gliimpse: Do Investors and Their Advisors Understand Basics of Healthcare Data & IT?

    http://www.shimcode.com/2016/08/do-investors-and-their-advisors.html

  • Steve,
    I agree. I think they don’t understand how hard it really is to get the data they want. Congrats to Gliimpse for the exit 😉

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