By Arik Anderson
Apple Inc., the latest outsider to insource employee health care, may also be the best positioned to do it right. The tech company that we credit for inventing elegant, low-friction user experience has already shown it can integrate wearables into its users’ lives enough to become both mandatory and invisible.
News leaked Tuesday that Apple has been quietly planning to launch primary care clinics for employees this spring. The primary care group will comprise clinical staff operating independently from Apple but dedicated to the tech giant’s employees. Apple began notifying third-party vendors this week that it would shift to its own health network.
Those clinics will be a test of whether the company’s new leadership can remake the doctor’s office the way the company already revolutionized its retail and office experience. It’s certainly needed: News of Apple’s venture follows the announcement last month by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan, that they would work together on ways to address healthcare for their U.S. employees, aiming to boost employee satisfaction and cut costs.
What sets Apple apart is its success at allowing its users to focus on the task they’re chasing after, not the device. In medicine, the challenge of inserting technology elegantly into the relationship between doctors and patients is the last mile in improving health outcomes while also stanching runaway U.S. healthcare spending. If the company stays true to its heritage, we can expect a transformation in healthcare on par with what we’ve seen from cell phones and tablets to the retail experience.
In one facet alone, patient adherence, improvements could save three times as much as the U.S. spends on cancer treatment in a year, before even counting lost productivity. Research shows that half of patients with chronic illnesses don’t take their medicine. Without knowing whether patients are following through, adherence becomes a black box, one that creates negative consequences for treating physicians and medical researchers, who each struggle to determine whether it’s the underlying illness causing a patient’s condition or failure to follow a prescribed treatment plan.
We have fantastic drugs for treating many chronic conditions, whether the condition is asthma, diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Skilled practitioners already do a good job of diagnosing, prescribing and modifying treatment plans to keep up with individual patients’ symptoms, lifestyle and stage of illness. The final, critical part of achieving the best outcomes still depends on proper adherence to the doctor’s advice.
The right technology offers a simple solution, and one that magnifies the abilities of doctors and pharmaceutical researchers to improve patients’ health.
Arik Anderson is CEO of Adherium Ltd., a San Mateo, California-based leader in digital health technologies which address sub-optimal medication use in chronic disease. Its software and SmartInhaler devices provide reminders and monitoring of prescription inhaler usage.