Apple Hints at Its Medical Device Plans

Brian Buntz

November 10, 2015

2 Min Read
Apple Hints at Its Medical Device Plans

Before the Apple Watch debuted, the product was rumored to have medical device functionality. Now, Apple chief Tim Cook is saying that future iterations of the Apple Watch won't have medical functionality either, but stated that it may produce "adjacent" products that go through FDA testing.  

Qmed Staff

In a recent public appearance in England and an interview with Telegraph, Tim Cook declared that the end is near for PCs and that the company is mulling launching some sort of medical technology. "We don't want to put the [Apple Watch] through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process. I wouldn't mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it, but not the watch, because it would hold us back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long," he said. "But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it -- maybe an app, maybe something else."

Those careful comments led some press outlets like PC Mag to question whether medical devices are Apple's Next Big Thing?

Early press reports suggested that the Apple Watch would likely contain a bevy of health sensors, but when the product debuted, it didn't offer much in that capacity: a heart sensor and activity monitor. Several press reports speculated that the company likely wanted to include more health-tracking functionality in the device--a theory supported by the company's meetings with FDA. It is likely, however, that the regulatory oversight needed to include such features would slow down their commercialization timelines and that it would be difficult to make those features work reliably.

The company has gradually been expanding its involvement in the medical realm, however. Earlier this year, Cook announced that its new ResearchKit clinical trial platform will "transform medical research in a way that's truly profound."

Cook also pointed out that the Apple Watch can be used in conjunction with a number of health apps and, in one case, the watch's heart-monitoring technology played a role in saving a high school football player who noticed that his heart rate was elevated. The boy's trainer recommended he see a doctor "and the doctor told him he would have died the following day had he not come in. Basically, his organs were shutting down," Cook said.

An internal 2013 FDA memo obtained by MobiHealthNews suggests that last year that, while Apple believes it has a "moral obligation" to become more active in digital health, that the company was not looking to produce regulated medical devices.

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