Big Tech in Medtech: Is Apple Pressing Too Hard?

This week in Pedersen's POV, our senior editor examines Apple's new iPad ad through a medtech lens.

Amanda Pedersen

May 13, 2024

3 Min Read
Pedersen's POV graphic featuring headshot and quote from Amanda Pedersen's weekly opinion column on MD+DI.

It felt like my soul was on that hydraulic press somewhere between the piano and the clay bust as I watched Apple’s controversial iPad Pro video for the first time last week. The video has been viewed 2.5 million times, proving that there really is no such thing as bad publicity.

But as I watched for the fourth or fifth time, I couldn’t help but imagine a different assortment of objects on that press. Objects like an EKG monitor, medical imaging viewers, a pulse oximeter, and glucose monitoring devices. Because it’s no secret that Apple and other Big Tech players have been pressing into medtech for more than a decade now.

Every few years since about 2011, Apple and its peers have made a move in healthcare, inspiring juicy headlines such as How Software Will Kill or Save Medical Devices, Very Few Things Are Stopping Big Tech from ‘Popping’ in Healthcare, and (most recently) Is Apple Shaking up Medtech Again?

Back in 2014, a keynote speaker at MD&M West went so far as to predict that digital health technologies could ultimately replace half of traditional medical devices much in the same way that smartphones made digital cameras, GPS systems, and even the BlackBerry obsolete.

Over the past decade, a complicated relationship has emerged between Apple and medtech. iPads are becoming as prominent in traditional healthcare settings as a blood pressure cuff and they’re already essential tools for healthcare delivery, making the company both a powerful partner for some medical device companies and a formidable opponent for others.

Medtech professionals have long argued that Big Tech companies don’t understand the nuances of operating in such a highly regulated industry. That may have been true in the beginning, but Apple has hired a number of medical device veterans over the years to fill those knowledge gaps.

Those recruitment efforts have clearly paid off, and recent wins make it tough to deny Apple’s impact in medtech. The Apple Watch, for example, is now certified by FDA to be used in clinical studies for atrial fibrillation. This marks the first time a digital health technology has qualified under the medical device development tools program.

Is Big Tech a threat to the industry as a whole? Having tracked this trend for at least a decade now, the logical side of my brain says no because if it were going to happen, it would have by now.

The other side of my brain, however, keeps showing me dystopian-like futures in which an Apple-like conglomerate has swallowed up one or more top-tier medical device players and completely disrupted the industry. Watching an industrial-sized press slowly annihilate objects representing creativity and human ingenuity only amplifies that fear.

One thing I know for sure is Big Tech is not going anywhere. Like it or not, these companies will continue to put down roots in medtech and the broader healthcare industry. Traditional medical device companies will have to become even more savvy than they are today about making friends with the likes of Apple. Because these friends in high places can quickly become foes.

Apple could have gone a different route with its iPad Pro ad. The company could have shown its product acting as a portal through which all those objects slip into the device, becoming one with the iPad rather than being demolished by it. But then it wouldn’t have garnered 2.5 million views, nor would we still be talking about the video almost a full week later.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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