Apple Plan to Offer Primary Healthcare Stalled

Apple’s plan to offer primary healthcare at clinics owned by the company and staffed by doctors employed by Apple has stalled, though the company continues to work on the idea, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The company began the project in 2016, according to the newspaper, which they tested by taking over clinics that offered services to its employees and assembled a team of people that included engineers, clinicians, and product designers, among others. The Journal notes that sources said “an Apple team spent months trying to figure out how the flood of health and wellness data collected from users of its smartwatch, first released in 2015, might be used to improve healthcare.”

After Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams advised the health team to disrupt the modern healthcare model in the U.S. in 2016, the team focused on providing its own medical service by using data the company had obtained through its devices and providing in-person care from doctors employed by Apple. To test this idea, Apple took over employee health clinics near its offices that were owned by a startup. In 2017, Apple hired Stanford University’s Dr. Sumbul Desai to oversee the project, which had been codenamed Casper.

Although the company is still trying to move the project forward, people familiar with their efforts say that Apple is struggling to get Casper out of the preliminary stage.

The Journal reports that some members of the Casper team have repeatedly expressed concerns about inaccurate or improperly compiled data from the company’s new digital health app, but a spokesperson for Apple dismissed these concerns and said that “many of the assertions in this report are based on incomplete, outdated and inaccurate information.”

Desai’s team have also started testing a new initiative on Apple employees in California called HealthHabit, which attempts to connect users with clinicians through a chat feature and to encourage them to set and reach various health challenges, such as exercising more. However, only half of the people who downloaded the app as of May had actually enrolled in the program, and even those who have enrolled reportedly have low engagement.

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