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Business News/ Companies / People/  Focus on consumer health over govt medical record infra: Sumbul Desai
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Focus on consumer health over govt medical record infra: Sumbul Desai

In an interview, Sumbul Desai, vice president, Health, Apple said it is not looking to transform medical records but yearns to help consumers gain more insights into their own health.

Sumbul Desai, Vice President, Health, ApplePremium
Sumbul Desai, Vice President, Health, Apple

NEW DELHI : Consumer-tech major Apple will continue to focus on the consumers’ personal health and fitness features on Apple Watch and iPhone, instead of tapping into governments’ health information infrastructure, and medical records, worldwide. In an interview, Sumbul Desai, vice president, Health, Apple said it is not looking to transform medical records but yearns to help consumers gain more insights into their own health. It is also looking to work with researchers and startups in India to further its health efforts. Edited excerpts:

What’s the feedback from the medical community on bridging the gap between consumer-tech and health-tech?

We want to provide actionable insights that are grounded in science. So we spend a lot of time on accuracy, measuring against gold standards, and then actually publishing it. So, when we think about all of our features we develop, our goal is really to publish the data and the accuracy of our features, so that the physician community understands it. We really want to speak their language. I think that has been received much better by the medical community because they understand the language that they speak, as we try to explain what the science is behind the features we present.

Doctors are not clear how these gadgets work. So how do you address it? Do you see it as a problem?

We’re spending more time trying to communicate with the medical community. Our work on health was very early and in the US we’ve spent a lot of time communicating with the medical community. That is the reason for a lot of studies with the medical community. So, it’s their own people talking to them. We make presentations at the American Heart Association and the American Cardiology Association, etc. The idea is how to do it more globally. Interestingly, we’re a very small team, and we’re trying to communicate with physicians more, so that they can understand the value. But we are still in the early stages and have much more work to do.

Is Apple looking to tap government systems for health data?

The honest answer is we’re really focused on consumers in the healthcare side. Right now, we are trying to find out how to use our technology to gain insights that aren’t traditionally available. Our goal is to have individuals understand their own health data so that we’re in the driver’s seat of our own health.

We’re less trying to say that we want to transform the medical records. Now, we do things in the medical record — in the US, the UK and Canada, and you can get your medical record on our phones. But we are still early in our journey to get the user to engage with their health.

How do you deal with privacy considering the dynamic nature of regulations globally? It is not as if one-size fits all, isn’t it?

We already deal with that, because a lot of our features, like the irregular heart rhythm notification, are software-as-a-medical-device, and have to run through regulatory bodies of a number of countries. We already have the ability to turn on features based on the regulatory needs of each country. We work with regulatory bodies for approvals and enable the features as they get approved. So we have built into how we roll out our features and have the ability to make adjustments on a country-by-country basis.

Do you work with health researchers or bodies in India along the lines of your global initiatives?

As part of our Investigator Support Program we will provide watches to researchers across the world, and India is one of them. We have a team who connect with local researchers, physicians and medical bodies here in India as well as other countries.

Any plan to localize features for India?

We do a bit of that through our globalization and localization work—might have certain languages or colour schemes that we use only in India that you wouldn’t see in the US. So we do try to do that for our features to be inclusive.

Are you looking to work with any health-tech startups or developers in India?

We’re very excited with our developer ecosystem. There’s a lot of amazing work happening here, and a lot of amazing work by female developers, so we’re very excited to continue to have those discussions and interact with them.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Prasid Banerjee
An engineering dropout, Prasid Banerjee has reported on technology in India for various publications. He reports on technology through text and audio, focusing on its core aspects, like consumer impact, policy and the future.
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Published: 26 Feb 2023, 06:55 PM IST
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