Big Tech: Apple’s Mastery Of Consumer Design Could Offer Unique Healthcare Advantages

I remember when I first fell in love with an Apple computer – the day I brought home a Macintosh Performa. I opened the box, plugged it into the wall and dove into it with a passion. By today’s standards, its 33 MHz processor, 4 MB of RAM and 250 MB hard drive seems laughable, but at the time my Mac seemed to have almost miraculous powers.

I still feel that sense of unreal power and beauty when I watch someone staring at the screen of the oh-so-elegant MacBook. The simplicity and restraint of its design and the silver-white glow of its screen give it an otherworldly quality that draws you into its arm.

This kind of perfect consumer electronics design is one of the chief legacies of iconic Apple founder Steve Jobs. It’s also a powerful weapon that Apple can deploy in its fight to become a leading player in the healthcare industry.

On the surface, having cool-looking devices doesn’t sound like it would do much to build traction in the healthcare industry, but it’s actually a compelling asset to have in the battle to engage consumers. In fact, if Apple plays its cards right, its genius for making beautiful products that scream “use me!” could allow it to establish hegemony in health IT.

As I noted in a piece last year, when Apple CEO Tim Cook made the claim that his company’s greatest contribution to mankind would be health-related, many people who were taken aback by his confidence (myself included). After all, as big and powerful as Apple is in the world, it’s competing with aggressive giants like Google and Amazon which already have what appears to be far more momentum in the healthcare space.

That being said, its not exactly standing still either . Apple has been plugging along quietly building healthcare technologies since at least 2014, when it launched its HealthKit framework and API.

Since then it has moved steadily into a handful of tools allowing providers to develop consumer-friendly tools.  For example, its CareKit technology, which allows providers to create apps for patients managing their health.

Then there are health systems like Geisinger, which have gone full-throttle into using Apple products. Geisinger has committed to using Apple and iOS devices across its network, using, for example, iPads to educate patients about their illness and iOS mobile devices to access data stored in its Epic system.

Most recently, Apple has been expanding the reach of its Health app, which can now consolidate health data from iPhones, Apple Watches and third-party apps, as well as allowing consumers to download their health information from a growing number of providers.

Looked at as a whole, this is already an example of Apple doing what it does best, i.e. using proprietary technology to construct a powerfully-interlocked ecosystem.

This is, of course, something its rivals would like to have but are unlikely to do so. Market forces are pushing them in the direction of interoperability to the exclusion of the uniqueness; Apple, meanwhile, can have its cake and eat it too by allowing for data interoperability while keeping its customers tied to his products.

What’s even more important, though, is that Apple brings something to the table that these other giants don’t really have:  an understanding of how to make devices both useful and irresistibly attractive. This has led over time to fanatical affection for Apple which healthcare providers can leverage to keep them engaged.

I guess what I’m saying here is that while other tech vendors may impress providers with their data expertise, Apple knows how to win the hearts of consumers. If you asked me which is likely to win in the long run, I’d choose Apple.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

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