A Bloomberg from November 1 report reveals how Apple, over the past decade, has embarked on an ambitious quest to revolutionize healthcare through its consumer electronics products. However, the tech giant has faced significant challenges in moving beyond wellness monitoring and expanding into medical diagnosis and treatment.
The seeds of Apple’s healthcare vision were planted in 2011, when a secretive start-up called Avolonte Health, funded by Apple, began work on a non-invasive blood sugar monitor for diabetics. This project was personally initiated by Steve Jobs shortly before his death. The goal was to free diabetics from frequent finger pricks by using advanced optics to measure blood sugar levels through the skin.
Four years later, Apple unveiled the Apple Watch, initially designed as a health sensor hub featuring the Avonte glucometer. Yet miniaturization issues have forced Apple to market it primarily as a smartwatch. Therefore, the company continued to develop advanced health features for the Apple Watch, including ECG, fall detection, and blood oxygen monitoring.
Behind the scenes, Apple has been working on even more ambitious projects, including sleep trackers, nutrition monitoring, blood pressure cuffs and Android compatibility. However, many have been halted due to concerns about market demand, regulation and medical risks.
At the heart of Apple’s caution is a deep aversion to direct involvement in health care.
The company has focused on selling health monitoring devices and software, avoiding areas requiring medical licenses like diagnosis and treatment. While this minimizes regulatory burdens, it also represents a more limited view of healthcare transformation.
Former employees cite conservative leadership as another key factor. Fears of damaging Apple’s reputation have made executives reluctant to venture into unproven medical territory. Internal health projects, such as access to providers through apps, had little adoption by employees and were abandoned.
Technological challenges also played a role. Condensing medical-grade sensors and AI analytics into consumer gadgets has proven difficult. Accuracy, reliability and security remain unattainable for more advanced diagnostic applications.
Today, Apple continues to develop sensors such as blood pressure monitoring, while avoiding diagnostic recommendations. Its glucometer remains years away from the market. The company has scaled back its ambitions for direct healthcare delivery.
Ultimately, Apple’s experience highlights the immense scientific and regulatory complexity of medical technology innovation. Consumer technology culture clashed with the rigorous demands of medical surveillance.
Featured image credit: SHVETS Production; Pixels; THANKS!