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Apple hires Stanford Medical digital health exec director

June 17, 2017

In a move that shows Apple’s continued push into healthcare, the technology giant recently hired Dr. Sumbul Desai, executive director of Stanford Medicine’s center for digital health, to its health team.

Apple hasn’t announced Dr. Desai’s position and whether she will oversee an existing project, such as ResearchKit, or a new project.

Desai has worked with tech companies on digital health projects and led ClickWell Care, which is Stanford’s first virtual primary care clinic.

Desai isn’t Apple’s first major hire in the healthcare industry. The tech company has also partnered with large healthcare systems and bought personal health record startup Gliimpse.

The company is additionally interested in artificial intelligence and its ResearchKit is “on the verge of becoming medically useful.” ResearchKit uses iPhones to collect health information, which then allows researchers to conduct studies using the data. Study authors recently published new data on seizures, asthma attacks and heart disease using the ResearchKit platform.

Having that kind of data readily at their fingertips excites researchers. However, there are still challenges with ResearchKit, which include that participants must own Apple products like an iPhone to take part in the studies and people with Apple products are usually wealthier, more educated and younger than the general population.

Tech giants like Apple, Microsoft and IBM see potential in the healthcare industry. Tech and healthcare companies see there is a greater demand for data-driven information and an emphasis on value-based models. This has created the wave of new health IT initiatives and startups.

David Delaney, chief medical officer at SAP in Cambridge, Mass., recently told Healthcare Dive, “There is tremendous potential to leverage what’s been done in other sectors within healthcare to drive greater clarity in terms of care delivery and to really modernize, streamline and help along the journey toward value-based care where organizations are able to deliver high-quality care at a low cost and in a reproducible fashion.”

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