Apple’s most important new project is making U.S. health care cheaper. In the Washington Post, Vivek Wadhwa discusses Apple’s latest health care foray: the Apple ResearchKit aimed at making it easier and cheaper to run clinical trials. The platform allows anyone with an iPhone to download apps that measure their vital signs and conditions, and that data can be used for developing new treatments. Wadhwa situates the ResearchKit within the overall improvements in health monitoring technology.
We will soon have sensors that monitor almost every aspect of our body’s functioning, inside and out. They will be packaged in watches, Band-Aids, clothing, and contact lenses. They will be in our toothbrushes, toilets and showers. They will be embedded in smart pills that we swallow. The data from these will be uploaded into cloud-based platforms such as Apple’s HealthKit […]ResearchKit apps will enable constant monitoring of symptoms and of reactions to medications. Today, clinical trials are done on a relatively small number of patients, and pharmaceutical companies sometimes choose to ignore information that does not suit them. Data that our devices gather will be used to accurately analyze what medications patients have taken, in order to determine which of them truly had a positive effect; which simply created adverse reactions and new ailments; and which did both.
The future is impossible to predict. But one thing we do know is that new technologies have made it cheaper to purchase services in other industries but not in health care so far. This gap is in part due to the over-investment in new kinds of treatments rather than in how to deliver health care more cheaply. If the Apple revolution works, and the remote monitoring it enables brings down the costs of managing chronic illnesses as well as creating new treatments, then price drops cannot be very far off.