Even Apple knows the big money is in health care

(Source: Wikimedia)

Technology companies have long sought to disrupt the health care industry with their own system of digitization and data analysis. The countries that seem ripe for disruption in this area have huge regulatory hurdles, though. This has stopped Microsoft and Google in their tracks in the U.S. before, but Apple has not been deterred.

The world’s most valuable company is now taking a crack at electronic health records. There are many challenges ahead for Apple, and there may be some limited utility early on in the project. However, it’s still an important step in the push to make health care better.

Health care is a hot area for technology right now. Unlike other industries, health care spending is robust even in the worst of times. People can go without flashy gadgets, but health care is a different story. That story is more complicated in mature markets were insurance companies make up much of the spending.

A company isn’t likely to have their products covered by insurance before becoming established in the market, though. Some new technology companies like those in the wearables space have also been known to make dubious claims about health benefits.

Though Fitbit devices can be organized under the “fitness” and “personal health” categories, the measurements of wearables like smartwatches and fitness bands are not known to be especially accurate. The usefulness of those devices has more to do with offering consistent metrics through which users can gauge their own progress on reaching personal goals.

More sophisticated health care-centered startups are getting a lot of attention. In fact, biotechnology companies had some of the most lucrative IPOs in 2017. AnaptysBio and Argenx had valuation to invested capital ratios of 28 and 24 respectively after going public, according to CrunchBase. AnaptysBio wound up with a valuation of $2.74 billion and Argenx of $2.35 billion.

Impact Biomedicines, whose tech has proven effective against some kinds of cancer, wound up with the highest VIC ratio after Celgene agreed to buy the company this month. That ratio could be as high as 318 if the final acquisition price winds up being the $7 billion reported. Even the low-end valuation estimate of $1.1 billion gives the company a VIC ratio of 50.

Drugs and medical treatments make big money. Everyone knows that. Other types of technology more associated with consumers is also showing promise in the health care market, though.

(Source: eMarketer)

Health care practitioners are most interested in using telemedicine, virtual assistants and augmented and virtual reality headsets. The later technology adopters are less enthused by AR/VR tech, but it could prove especially useful in certain market segments. AR could be helpful in training surgeons, for example. It may even help during a surgery.

This is why Google sister company X transitioned to a business-to-business model for Google Glass. Physicians have reportedly become enamored with it as it allows for more attentive conversations with patients.

In the short term, the consumer-facing health care tech is what Apple will be focusing on. Better digitization of health records could boost demand for related technology, as well. As telemedicine becomes more commonplace, better options are needed for digitally passing sensitive medical information between patients and doctors. Apple knows this need has not yet been met. If it can tie this technology into Siri and make that the default digital assistant for medical professionals, all the better for Apple.

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