3 Radical Ways in which Apple is Revolutionising Medical Research

Full disclosure: I don’t own an Apple Watch or an iPhone. I own a MacBook Air because it is light (also, it was a gift). I am far from an Apple fangirl. But every year, without fail, I watch the Apple Keynote — thanks to Steve Jobs. Because of him, I have come to associate these keynotes with the ‘unexpected’ in the field of tech. He would change the world, ‘one more thing’ at a time.

This year didn’t disappoint (Remember, I don’t use iPhones :P). I was less enamoured by the new pastel iPhones and more interested in a smaller 15-min part of the keynote. It was titled ‘Health Research’ and was presented by Dr Sumbul Desai, the VP of Health at Apple.

How the Apple Watch Makes a Difference in Health Research

Through the Apple Watch, Apple has direct access to a treasure trove of health data. In 2017, to make use of some of this data, Apple teamed up with Stanford Medicine and launched the Apple Heart Study. They tracked irregular heartbeats and studied their effects on a person’s risk of stroke and heart failure.

This week, Apple unveiled a new, groundbreaking Apple Research App. Through this app, Apple will lead three innovative and unprecedented studies, in collaboration with the world’s leading medical institutions.

1. Apple Hearing Study

This is a highly innovative study that collects data to understand how everyday sound exposure can impact hearing. The study data will also be shared with the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a contribution towards its Make Listening Safe initiative.

2. Apple Women’s Health Study

Apple is leading the first large-scale, long-term study on menstrual cycles and gynaecological conditions. This study will shed light on conditions like Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), infertility, osteoporosis, pregnancy and the menopausal transition.

3. Apple Heart and Movement Study

This is a study on how a person’s heart rate and mobility were related to hospitalisations, falls, heart health and quality of life, to promote healthy movement and improved cardiovascular health.

What about Data Privacy?

The statement was simple: “You decide what data you want to share.”

Dr Sambal also explained that Apple cannot access any information that directly identifies the user.

What’s in Store for Apple’s Future

Apple is doubling down on health-related projects.

The Apple Watch is already known for improving its user’s mobility through its intuitive user interface. With technologies that were barely imaginable a few years ago, this watch is described as both life-changing and life-saving.

Surely, the highly innovative nature of these studies done through the Apple Health Research App can contribute to potential medical discoveries, making the world healthier and safer.

“If my watch can give me so much information about my health, why can’t my hospital too?”

An ordinary person is not used to voluntarily participating in medical research. This app will democratise medical research, and make it a common and frequent activity.

As more and more people adopt the Apple Watch, more and more players will come to this industry. The trends are going to change — patients will demand more visibility over their medical records. People will feel ownership over their personal health data and will start expecting graphs and charts from their doctors.

The Apple Research App will release in the US, later this year. As someone in the health tech space, I’m keen to see the waves this is going to create.

Here’s the clip from the Apple keynote live stream:

All images are sourced from the Apple Newsroom

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