Apple moves further into healthcare; here's what it means for orthopedics

Written by Laura Dyrda | January 10, 2019 | Print  |

Apple is already playing in the healthcare space with personal health applications, wearables and the Apple health records project, which includes more than 100 institutions. In an interview with CNBC's Jim Cramer, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company expects additional innovation in the healthcare space this year.

In 2018, the company reported plans to allow EMR data in the iPhone's health record and opened its health record application programming interface to third parties, according to CB Insights. It could also make life easier for physicians through its collaboration with Health Gorilla, which allows physicians to "order and ingest lab test data." 

The Apple Watch can help customers become more fit, including patients who may need to undergo a joint replacement or other surgical procedures, or identify potentially life-threatening conditions.

"On healthcare in particular, and your wellbeing, this is an area I believe that if you zoom out to the future and look back and ask the question, what is Apple's greatest contribution to mankind it will be about health," said Mr. Cook the interview.

Patients can also use their iPhones for telehealth purposes, to interface with physicians over video or communicate with their providers via text or email. There are telehealth applications for postsurgical wound management or physical therapy following joint surgery.

Looking to the future, the company has invested in health and wellness applications over the past few years, and hired 40 to 50 physicians, including orthopedic surgeon Sharat Kusuma, MD, to oversee the company's relationship with Zimmer Biomet. Apple and Zimmer Biomet launched a collaboration in October 2018 to develop the mymobility app for Apple Watch, which connects knee and hip replacement patients with their surgical care teams.

Patients can use the app to track progress, and the two companies hope to collect data that will help them understand the best standard of care for patients. The collaboration hopes to enroll up to 10,000 patients in a clinical trial focused on the app's use.

The company also launched the electrocardiogram-equipped Apple Watch, which Mr. Cook said is part of the company's efforts to democratize health data. The future could bring a number of new innovations; Apple has already filed a patent for a wrist-based blood pressure cuff and seems to be focusing on glucose monitoring as well, according to CB Insights.

Consumerism trends in healthcare are driving the demand for this technology, and payers in some cases are making it broadly accessible. UnitedHealthcare, Aetna and others offer members subsidized Apple Watches or watches as part of a rewards program, which give lower-income individuals access to these devices.

More articles on orthopedic surgery:
27 orthopedic surgeons on the move
53% of orthopedic surgeons happy with lifestyle
How the healthcare industrial complex affects orthopedics + the big opportunities in 2019 from Dr. James Caillouette

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