HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

A Message for Apple’s “Top 5” Health Leaders

Posted on | April 25, 2019 | No Comments

Mike Magee

This week, STAT News led with the headline, “5 names to know at Apple: the people leading its move into health care.” For those following the consumer health space, this was one more bit of bait to attract and catch tech-savvy readers with hints of success that have circulated for nearly two decades.

Google famously played in this health space, and then very publically bowed out in 2011. The problem then, and arguably now, is confusion around “health” and “health care” in America. As I outline in CODE BLUE: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex”, the U.S. took a right turn after the war, when every other developed nation (including two we fully funded – Germany and Japan) went left and embraced universal and national health care as a human right for their citizens.

As a result of that decision, we released health care to entrepreneurs and profiteers and drank the Coolaid believing that defeating disease was synonymous with providing health. In the eight decades that followed, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, and devices pushed common sense public health to the periphery, leaving America the only nation to spend more on health care than all other social services combined.

So it’s not surprising that tech companies attempting to integrate with US health care are a bit confused. Are they partners in this mess, cost-effective reformers, or competitors?

Some simple advice, first provided some 13 years ago, ask the basic question, “How do we make America and Americans healthy?”

Is it through “wearable” diagnostics? Will AliveCor’s medical grade EKG device lead to a healthy and productive nation or reverse the downward trend in life expectancy in our nation?

Will portability of data, or consumer controlled collection, or “wrist time” instant distribution and sharing of data place a dent in a hyper-competive society with crumbling infrastructure, environmental degradation, poor nutrition, crumbling schools, poor air and water, and population wide anxiety?

Apple’s “Top 5” – and Cerner, athenahealth and eClinicalWorks – should be looking at where we’re going, not where we have been. Legendary Health IT leader Don Detmer said as much to Congress in 2006 with these words, “While it is the undoubted world leader in high technology clinical care and biomedical research, the US healthcare system is an incredibly fragmented mix of very large and very small players – a conglomeration of 21st century medical science and cottage-industry business practices, and too often characterized by uneven access, delivery and outcomes.”

If there is a transformative role for technology (and one that might be profitable) in the health care space, it lies at the nexus of integrated lifespan planning and strengthened bonds between individual/family/clinician and community. Efficiency, universality and solidarity are the deliverables Apple’s “top 5” should be targeting.

Here’s a short video from 2006 worth a viewing:

VIEW

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