Apple and Alphabet Both Want to Revolutionize Healthcare But in Different Ways

Apple Verily contributing in healthcare
Image: Verily

Making inroads in the $3.2 trillion healthcare industry is intimidating, complex, and expensive. Now, Apple and Alphabet, two of the world’s largest technology companies, are taking different approaches in their efforts to bring about changes in healthcare.  

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After a study showed mixed results about Apple Watch’s ability to detect arrhythmia, Verily, Alphabet’s research organization, is showing its own effort to bring scientific precision to the use of wearables for diagnosing health problems.

According to Jessica Mega, Verily’s chief medical officer, who’s also a cardiologist and former clinical trial investigator, Verily’s Study Watch can collect far more data by measuring participants continuously, reports Financial Times.

“Currently we have a few gigabytes per person of health data — that’s projected to be terabytes in the future. We need to think about rigorous studies to figure out what signals matter,” she said. 

Apple, on the other hand, is one of the few companies that has resources to contribute to healthcare. Over the past few years, the company has hired hundreds of researchers, engineers, and doctors, and acquired small companies in order to gain a toehold in the healthcare industry.

On January, Verily announced that it raised $1 billion in an investment round led by a private equity firm. The company said the funding will be used to help it grow in key areas such as investments and future acquisitions.

Apple Watch
Image: Apple

Verily recently expanded its Project Baseline initiative, a partnership with Duke University and Stanford Medicine. The project is collecting health data on more than 10,000 people using the Study Watch, as well as traditional methods, to discover clues that can predict disease. With its new partnership with the American Heart Association, Verily is opening up a registry of women, often under-represented in research, who want to participate in clinical trials and test new technologies.

Large tech companies, as well as start-ups are vying to revolutionize the clinical trials market which, according to CB insights, is worth $65 billion. Clinical trials are necessary for regulatory approval of new treatments, but the process can take an average of 7.5 years and cost up to $2 billion per drug, according to the research firm. 

Even the FDA, which have rigid requirements on how trials are conducted, are pushing for more partnership and data sharing, and the adoption of new technologies. 

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“If you’re a physician working on a clinical trial your experience is probably no different than 20 or 30 years ago,” said Gary Hughes, chief executive of Teckro, a software platform that helps doctors and patients take part in the trials. “It’s still a people and paper process.”

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