Apple VP of health talks about the company's responsibility to keep users healthy

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Apple is working to try and change the perception of health and wellness to make users more proactive about their wellbeing, Apple VP of Health, Dr Sumbul Desai discussed in an interview covering how Apple creates related features and services to improve the lives of its users.




Offering users products like the Apple Watch and Apple Fitness+, Apple has an interest in keeping their users fit and healthy. In an interview published on Monday, Sumbul Desai, MD, who is vice president of Health at Apple, speaks about Apple's current work and design principles, and privacy.

"One of the things that we're really focused on is how do you change the perception of health?' because a lot of people think about healthcare' is when you're sick, and you think about wellness and fitness when you're doing well," Dr. Desai said to Rene Ritchie in the YouTube interview.

"One really important goal is how do we bring those two together, bring those worlds together, and really focus, think about your health as just holistically staying healthy, and empowering you to be the best version of you, to be healthy. And able to use use our devices in really unique ways, potentially to partner with an individual to keep them healthy is something that we're really, I've been really excited about and intrigued by."

The VP goes on to say Apple's employees "almost feel like we have a responsibility to help individuals empower themselves with more information about their health so they can be their best versions of them, and live their healthier life."

On the support of CEO Tim Cook who once said that Apple could one day be known for making an impact on health in the future, Desai says the team is empowered by it. "I think what is always important to remember is it's such an important focus, and health permeates every aspect of the work we do in at Apple."





Along with Health and Apple Watch services, Desai points to the introduction of Focus Modes in iOS 15 and teaching users to use their devices intentionally as "a form of health." Screen Time is also brought up as an example, in that it assists with mental health, and "making sure you're not attached to the devices too much."

The interview also discusses the integration of health aspects across the ecosystem by working closely with different teams. "We have subject matter experts, we have clinicians, who are really involved in the product development process but we work really closely side by side with our engineering colleagues and design colleagues," Desai said.

On the development of health-related features, Desai explains "the idea can come from anywhere," but there are areas that come into play including the "clinical problem that we're solving," the technical feasibility of "can we actually measure what we want to measure?" The teams then get together and work out "how do we actually quickly validate what we're proposing to solve?"

After an idea has been proven to be possible, the teams then consider what performance metrics and targets the feature needs to meet. As well as using internal experts hired by Apple, teams also work with external experts, asking questions such as finding out what doctors would do with information gathered by the feature, the level of acceptability of data, and dealing with false positives and negatives.

Turning to privacy, Richie mentions how Apple is "absolutist" about health data being owned and accessed by the user, but that some people's needs go beyond this, such as patients who cannot remember to take their medicine regularly. When asked how Apple designs privacy while being considerate to the end user, Desai underscores Apple's privacy focus, but also points out the Health Sharing feature that provides granular sharing controls.

"We allow the user to have granular control to decide what they're going to share with the person they're choosing to share with, so we really want to put the user at the center to be able to make decisions," the VP said.

Desai then underscores the privacy element by responding to frequently asked questions about data, confirming "we actually have none of that information. That information sits on the device on the individual's phone," and is only provided when a user choses to participate in a study.

The interview concludes with the executive stating "Health is something that is so precious to many of us and there's so much more to do, and so we really take it day by day, listen to our customers, try to really use the science, and drive towards the goal of really having an impact on an individual's life.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    I'm glad to see this, and I'm been impressed with some of the advances, especially concerning the watch and detection of issues.

    But, if they want to make a really big impact, they are going to have to address food/nutrition. I'm not sure how they can do this in a meaningful way. All the fitness stuff is nice, but is a fraction of the problem compared to what we eat (and not a simple/problematic metric like calories!).
    byronlGeorgeBMacbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 2 of 10
    byronlbyronl Posts: 365member
    apple should look into buying teladoc 
  • Reply 3 of 10
    byronlbyronl Posts: 365member
    “And able to use use our devices in really unique ways, potentially to partner with an individual to keep them healthy is something that we're really, I've been really excited about and intrigued by." 

    this could be very telling. some sort of AI that has access to all health and fitness data, and can make comprehensive health suggestions? 

    she could mean a million different things there.
  • Reply 4 of 10
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,416member
    I’m a firm believer in going after healthcare improvements from a standpoint of prevention rather than correction. Apple's products and initiatives are definitely focused on prevention and active participation in one’s own health care. All of this is very good, but the primary beneficiaries of Apple’s initiatives are those who are probably being well served by the current healthcare industry, while those who aren’t plugged into Apple and technology based healthcare enhancements aren’t really seeing any real benefits at all. In all likelihood the have-nots are also consuming a disproportionately larger share of healthcare system resources. This gap was driven home for me last week when my elderly father-in-law somehow ended up getting scheduled for a virtual doctors visit. He has no internet access and a flip phone. I can only imagine how unproductive that virtual checkup turned out to be. Cough cough. 
    byronl
  • Reply 5 of 10
    cgWerks said:
    I'm glad to see this, and I'm been impressed with some of the advances, especially concerning the watch and detection of issues.

    But, if they want to make a really big impact, they are going to have to address food/nutrition. I'm not sure how they can do this in a meaningful way. All the fitness stuff is nice, but is a fraction of the problem compared to what we eat (and not a simple/problematic metric like calories!).

    There are nutrition apps available (I've used MyNetDiary) that track what you eat.  While it is surprisingly easy to use -- and very, very helpful -- for many people (like those buying fast food) it's more work than they are willing to put out.

    But yes, health starts with a health diet -- which doesn't mean eating some supposed health food to cure the diseases caused by unhealthy foods.   It means replacing unhealthy foods with healthy foods -- for the rest of your life.

    Yes, exercise helps and is very necessary.  But you can never out-run a pizza.
    byronlcgWerksmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 6 of 10
    Apple continues to walk that narrow line between our healthcare system (which is really a DiseaseManagement system) and actual healhcare -- which requires a healthy lifestyle of diet, exercise, stress reduction and sleep.

    But, while because of things like the FDA, it is necessary to walk that fine line, it dilutes Apple's real push for healthy lifestyles -- which our DiseaseMangement system marginalizes because they can't make money from either dead people or healthy people.   So THEIR goal is to keep us sick, but alive.
    ...  That is, of course, working against Apple's push to health.

    That is:  Apple is trying to get us healthy but has to work with a system trying to keep us sick.
    FileMakerFellercgWerksmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 10
    The headline -- about "Apple's responsibility" for its customer's health raises interesting questions:

    I have seen that question debated in medical forums:  namely: what responsibility do physicians and healthcare organizations have for their patient's health?  
    When a fat person comes in with metabolic syndrome -- big belly combined with hypertension and diabetes -- what responsibility does our (so called) healthcare system have to correcting the cause of his disease (too many BigMacs and video games) -- or does its responsibility end with merely treating the effects and symptoms of that lifestyle by prescribing more pills & procedures?

    Unlike Apple, it seems that most physicians agree that their job ends with the pills & procedures.  And, it is the patient's responsibility to seek health through a healthy lifestyle.  But, few patients know what a healthy lifestyle is or how to achieve it -- so nothing happens.  Their doctor's pills keep them alive but never cure them of the chronic diseases they suffer from.
    edited February 2022 FileMakerFellercgWerksmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 8 of 10
    Rene Ritchie Is killing it with his coverage. 

    Gets the interviews and knows how to conduct them. 

    He’s witty and hilarious to boot. 

    Love that channel. 
  • Reply 9 of 10
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    GeorgeBMac said:
    There are nutrition apps available (I've used MyNetDiary) that track what you eat.  While it is surprisingly easy to use -- and very, very helpful -- for many people (like those buying fast food) it's more work than they are willing to put out.

    But yes, health starts with a health diet -- which doesn't mean eating some supposed health food to cure the diseases caused by unhealthy foods.   It means replacing unhealthy foods with healthy foods -- for the rest of your life.

    Yes, exercise helps and is very necessary.  But you can never out-run a pizza.
    Yeah, it would be interesting to actually review some of those apps with all the knowledge I've gained over the last decade or so. My hunch is that a lot of them have it wrong. Most stuff seems concerned with counting calories, or limiting fat. Both might have some application for some people, but are generally old dietary science (and quite wrong, if not harmful!).

    For the most part, yes, the key (at least level 1 and the most gain) is to clean out as much of the bad food and replace it with good. Get rid of processed stuff and replace it with real food. The, different people are going to need different balances of nutrients and might have to eliminate certain things. I suppose that is hard for an app to really do.

    The biggest issue in the North American diet is sugar (and things that quickly become sugar, like refined grains). I think those are the core of most of our poor health (about the worst in the world for the USA). Also, I think due to past bad science, a lot of people don't get enough good fats (many went low-fat, which often meant stuffing in a lot of sugars/carbs in their place).

    But, absolutely, it is pretty much impossible to out-exercise a bad diet. You might succeed in keeping weight off, at least for a while, but you'll be open to an entire avalanche of other health issues.

    Apple continues to walk that narrow line between our healthcare system (which is really a DiseaseManagement system) and actual healhcare -- which requires a healthy lifestyle of diet, exercise, stress reduction and sleep.

    But, while because of things like the FDA, it is necessary to walk that fine line, it dilutes Apple's real push for healthy lifestyles -- which our DiseaseMangement system marginalizes because they can't make money from either dead people or healthy people.   So THEIR goal is to keep us sick, but alive.
    ...  That is, of course, working against Apple's push to health.

    That is:  Apple is trying to get us healthy but has to work with a system trying to keep us sick.
    Exactly! It isn't necessarily purposeful outside of big-pharma goals and collaboration with the FDA, but it is the way the whole system is designed and doctors are trained. As Shawn Stevenson (Model Health Show) says, if you take a big group of the world's smartest people and train them to do wrong things, they'll just be really excellent at doing it. I'm really glad the expertise exists when I get hurt badly, or something goes really wrong, but it is a reactive model, rather than proactive.

    If you want to understand how bad the situation really is with the FDA, this was quite an insightful episode:
    https://themodelhealthshow.com/truth-fda/

    Unlike Apple, it seems that most physicians agree that their job ends with the pills & procedures.  And, it is the patient's responsibility to seek health through a healthy lifestyle.  But, few patients know what a healthy lifestyle is or how to achieve it -- so nothing happens.  Their doctor's pills keep them alive but never cure them of the chronic diseases they suffer from.
    Well said. Most people simply don't know. Or, maybe they know they should eat less junk and exercise more. But, they don't understand how damaging much of what they eat is, or how most people simply don't have the willpower to change under the tactics of the food industry. They have to make a break from that in order to have much of any chance to succeed. So, even if they try some diets (eating less, but of the same junk) and add some exercise, they'll very likely fail.

    Yes, the doctors can give them pills and surgeries to cover symptoms and keep them alive for a while... they'll just live a longer, sucky life. They won't get healthy.

    I don't know what Apple can do, besides using their tech to promote doing such things. Adding some exercise is a part, but how do they address the rest? And, if they do, does Apple have the power/will to battle the FDA and food industry?
  • Reply 10 of 10
    Do people really exercise because their apple devices tells them to. 😂 

    apple should stick to technology.  This fascination apple has with telling people how to live their lives is amazing.   And kinda sad. 
    edited February 2022
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