Apple COO Jeff Williams talks democratization of medicine, human rights, more in new interview

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2016
Apple's newly minted chief operating officer, Jeff Williams, appeared as a guest on radio show Conversations on Health Care on Monday to discuss the potential Apple Watch, iPhone and Apple's health platforms have on democratizing healthcare, as well as other topics like human rights issues.




While Williams covered well-trod ground bringing hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter up to speed with Apple's latest technologies, he did reveal a few tidbits on plans for Apple Watch, iPhone, HealthKit and ResearchKit as it pertains to medicine. Specifically, the hope is that Apple's growing suite of health technology products will one day be used to help diagnose, and in some cases treat, certain diseases, making them powerful assets in the globalization of quality healthcare.

"I think that's one of the things that interests us most in Apple. We're big believers in the democratization potential of this," Williams said, referring to Apple's health-minded products. "The injustice of fantastic healthcare available in some parts of the world, and others suffering needlessly."

With HealthKit, and later ResearchKit, Apple introduced platforms capable of leveraging advanced hardware technology like iPhone and Apple Watch to help consumers quantify and monitor their own health-related data, while offering medical researchers a chance to tap into a much wider subject pool. More quality data can accelerate study results and in some cases medical breakthroughs not attainable through traditional methods.

Williams pointed to autism as an example. Detecting autism at an early age is key to future treatment, as doctors can intervene -- albeit to a limited degree -- as long as the brain is still developing. A study found potential in app-based smartphone screening of children, and Williams believes iPhone can go further by delivering therapy and treatment.

In a very real way, Apple is bending the commoditization of computer technology to serve health sciences. With relatively inexpensive tools -- iPhone, Apple Watch and supporting apps -- doctors and researchers can deliver better standards of living to severely underserved areas like Africa, where there are only 55 trained specialists in autism.

"The power of taking smartphones into that region and having an impact on people's lives in terms of their IQ and their social skill by intervening early on autism, that's the kind of thing that makes us get up in the morning," he said.

Earlier in the call, Williams mentioned Apple Watch as playing a key role in Apple's healthcare initiative. The device incorporates a number of finely tuned sensors, including a heart-rate sensor, to record and monitor biometric data generated by its user. Collecting this information is not only beneficial to end users who want to get and stay healthy, but also researchers like those looking for ways to detect, diagnose and treat diseases.

"We think Apple Watch marks the end of single-function wrist devices, in the same way the iPhone marked the end of single-function cell phones," Williams said. "The fact that you interact throughout the day with your Apple Watch for communications and payment and scheduling; we're just at the beginning of this."

As for human rights, Williams toed the company, saying Apple makes great efforts to make sure supply chain workers are protected. Among Apple's outreach initiatives are universities in China that teach factory workers new skills, as well as regular comprehensive audits that ensure worker health and safety.

Williams brought up the touchy subject of child labor, an illegal practice Apple's suppliers, including Foxconn, have been accused of employing in the past.

"No company wants to talk about child labor. They don't want to be associated with that. We shine a light on it," Williams said. "We go out and search for cases where an underage worker is found in a factory somewhere and then we take drastic actions with the supplier, the upstream labor groups to try to make a change, then we report it every year."

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 8
    "We think Apple Watch marks the end of single-function wrist devices, in the same way the iPhone marked the end of single-function cell phones," Williams said. "The fact that you interact throughout the day with your Apple Watch for communications and payment and scheduling; we're just at the beginning of this."

    This is why I think fitness trackers like fitbit devices are doomed. It's not really a product it's a feature, and if Apple ever wanted to create an iPod shuffle version of the Watch that was just fitness focused and cheaper they could easily do it.

  • Reply 2 of 8
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,316member
    Child labor is not illegal in China.

    Also, "human rights"? What does that have to do with anything? A "human right" is a made-up, unprotectable notion created by collectivists. There is no world government and there is no global Bill of Rights, unlike the real one in the US which only applies to Americans. "Human rights"...LOL!
    edited January 2016 awilliams87buzdots
  • Reply 3 of 8
    I like what I'm reading here! They are definitely  thinking big and maybe not in the direction most of us are anticipating. The medical side is something that no one is really talking about much these days. HealthKit and the research function are opening doors to a HUGE part of the economy and the potential to make a positive impact in the health of people's lives. 
    argonaut
  • Reply 4 of 8
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,115moderator
    Here's what I wrote here back in Sept 2014 right after the Watch was demonstrated.

    The Apple Watch, and smartwatches in general, will disrupt by changing the expectation of what a wrist mounted accessory should be.

    The Watch will deliver four key use cases well suited to a wearable device:

    1. Notification and dispatch. This is what everyone has been talking about so I won't detail this use case.

    2. Simple [lightweight] communications. For many, the concept of a smartphone as a phone (a real-time voice communicator) is becoming an anachronism. Many people use real-time voice communications only for short exchanges, to arrange a meetup or a quick check-in. These types of communications can easily be handled by the Watch, with longer conversations left to the smartphone. Apple's clever taptic communications (reach out and touch someone or send your heartbeat), the quick drawing app, and voice texts, all are lightweight forms of communication best suited for a wearable.

    3. Simple actions that replace stand-alone devices. With the introduction of HomeKit, and with ApplePay and integration with the Internet of Things, watches will soon be expected to perform the functions of house keys, car keys, workplace access Fobs and swipe cards, credit cards, light switches, television and stereo remotes, heat and air conditioning controllers, security system controllers, garage door openers, printed airline tickets and other passes. All functions more naturally suitable to an always accessible wearable.  Just as the smartphone replaced many stand-alone products, so too will the smart watch.

    4. Tracking. Not just fitness and health tracking, soon watches will be expected to be able to input simple data into applications. From SalesForce to Facebook to employee rating to project tracking, status updates that are easily input will become a fourth, stealth use case.

    The Apple Watch, and to a lesser extent, all smart watches, will change the perception of what a watch should do. And once that perception has changed, people will demand budget editions and luxury editions, utilitarian editions and fashionable editions of that new paradigm.  It's then, soon, that all traditional watchmakers must shift, partner, or find a new way to make a living.
    foggyhillargonaut
  • Reply 5 of 8
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Apple are not doing anything whatsoever connected with 'democratization of healthcare'.  The NHS in the Uk, Medicare in Australia, the French healthcare system - these are worthy of the term.
  • Reply 6 of 8
    latifbplatifbp Posts: 544member
    I'm so gay for Jeff Williams.
  • Reply 7 of 8
    ...4. Tracking. Not just fitness and health tracking, soon watches will be expected to be able to input simple data into applications. From SalesForce to Facebook to employee rating to project tracking, status updates that are easily input will become a fourth, stealth use case.

    .
    Agree with all and would add another dimension of tracking. Hospitals use smartbands to track location of patients - a huge issue for ones that are confused or demented. Perhaps a version of Apple Watch could not only monitor health status of patients in real time, but also be used to ensure appropriate location of patients. More niche but useful.
    lena
  • Reply 8 of 8
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 988member
    ...4. Tracking. Not just fitness and health tracking, soon watches will be expected to be able to input simple data into applications. From SalesForce to Facebook to employee rating to project tracking, status updates that are easily input will become a fourth, stealth use case.

    .
    Agree with all and would add another dimension of tracking. Hospitals use smartbands to track location of patients - a huge issue for ones that are confused or demented. Perhaps a version of Apple Watch could not only monitor health status of patients in real time, but also be used to ensure appropriate location of patients. More niche but useful.
    You think hospitals are going to put an easily stealable, sought after £350 device on patients?! I'd say that's pretty unlikely. 

    Also so this crap forum software is still broken when quoting on mobile. 
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