by Bob Root, Keys Founder and Technologist
The rumors are pretty strong that Apple will introduce Healthkit technology in it next IOS 8 operating system for iPhones and iPad’s..and maybe iWatch this October. It will enable software, apps and hardware creations that will monitor your health. …and hopefully affect your wellness.
The people at Apple have always listened to what people say and then do it their way. This backhanded compliment is from a guy that once lived in the world that Apple calls home…Silicon Valley.
I must admit that I feel guilty that I was paid during the 80’s working in Silicon Valley. It was way too much fun to have been a real job. Frankly, I am not sure anyone in “The Valley” felt they were really working in those days. It was a giant sandbox to play in.
As I rose to become a CEO in the valley the memories of those garage shop times were never lost. The industry had changed by the mid 90s and the spirit of entrepreneurial adventure was still the primary element, like oxygen, in the air we all breathed.
Apple was and is an icon that many believe sets the stage for innovation. Hated or loved, there was no middle ground when it came to Apple. Equally, the culture at Apple was bipolar compared to the mainstream computer companies trying to dabble in the PC industry. Apple had created a culture under the tutelage of Steve Jobs that was unique among competitors like IBM, Texas Instruments and Digital Equipment Corporation. I clearly remember it was a west coast vibe where the key phrase was “can,” versus the competitors irritating “can’t” point of view.
Yes there was Steve Jobs, but he stood on the shoulders of Hartmut Esslinger, Jay Chiat, Andy Hertzfeld and the rest of the Macintosh team. They were building the “computer for the rest of us.” They forever change the world. It was the combined brilliance of Hartmut Esslinger’s “Snow White” industrial design theme, the Mac teams software genius and the marketing revelations of Jay Chiat that clearly made the Mac. Jay’s quote, “I’m uncomfortable when I’m comfortable.“ says it all. Anyone that knows, knows that it took years for the Mac to be successful. It was the Apple way and that continues today.
Now Mr. Cook and ensemble have before them something more bombasitic and more relevant than anything that came before if they take the big risk of bucking the system. It is currently referred to as Healthkit and it is a suite of software, in the new IOS 8 that will facilitate new apps and hardware. Healthkit has the potential to save millions of lives by focusing mere mortals on their health and wellness. Yes, the next generation of IOS will have the ability to monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels as well as apps that will prescreen for skin cancer. Apps will even be able to send your vital information to the Mayo Clinic and other healthcare providers. You name it. For as many imaginations that can concoct uses, Healthkit will have apps and devices that will prescreen for just about anything. Mark my words, this will forever change the world and forever change medicine. It might not be right away, but it is certain.
So why the open letter to Tim Cook from an ex-Silicon Valley CEO turned natural products formulator. It is because if Tim really wants to make a difference, he must change the way most people think and focus on wellness and not just a facilitator for our already dysfunctional medical system. Just remotely offering what is already provided in an in-office visit is geekily interesting, but who cares if Healthkit’s results only end up creating medical tests, more tests and a prescription for ten different drugs. Turning your iPhone into a remote sensor for national healthcare is not my idea of a step ahead. Yes, yes it is cool to be able to tell your heart rate, blood pressure, distance walked or run and your blood sugar levels all on a wrist watch like device. …but, what if it also offered a wellness curriculum with monitoring and a performance system that shows your hormone levels, aerobic state and dietary requirements So that you can change your lifestyle to optimize your health.
There is a fundamental difference between screening for health and apps to facilitate wellness. Think of it this way. Today, most of the medical system and doctors operate the way a car mechanic did in the 50s-60s. In those days, you bought a car, put gas and oil in it and when it broke you took it to the mechanic. It was the days when brake pads had little metal tabs on them so that when they wore down, you heard the awful squeal of metal against metal and you then took it to the mechanic for new brakes. Our medical system and our “helpless patient” mentality are fundamentally the same. We cruise through life and when something breaks, we go to the doctor to find out what is wrong and get something, usually a prescription pill, to fix it. Almost never do we or our doctors search for the cause. The irony today is that we take our cars in for periodic maintenance to prevent bad stuff from happening. So to me, the old way where we wait for something to break is akin to the current health care system and working to prevent problems is wellness. Tim, it is not a nuance it is a state change and your decisions will indeed change the healthcare system, but will it change the way we observe our wellness, well-being and extend our lives.
I became a reluctant formulator of natural skin care and natural medicines because of, my wife, Wendy’s Melanoma diagnosis. As an engineer/scientist, I wondered what was the cause of her skin cancer? We still have no idea. What caused her distress after the disease were the chemicals in her prescription drug regimen. What we know for sure is that the shock of the Melanoma is that it began a wellness lifestyle for us both. What can we change to prevent disease before it happens? That is wellness!
Wellness is different from healthcare in many ways. Simply, it is challenging the conventional thinking and focusing on our diet, lifestyle, exercise and supplemental factors that extend the quality of life and reduce our “real-age” by changing habits early and not waiting for something to break. Equally, as we age, what Apple can actually do is to provide us tools that we didn’t even know we needed that will extend our youthfulness. Yes, knowing your glucose levels may help diagnose diabetes, but a tool that regulates how you avoid high glucose levels by monitoring your food selection is really cool. Can you imagine a sensor on your iPhone that would track and diagnose your hormone levels offering foods, supplements and activities that would enhance the production of these hormones. Imagine the same device when you hit your 50’s or 60’s and it recommends a Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) with suggested dosage. The list is only as long or as limitless as your imagination can handle. Now maps these ideas on any number of wellness factors that can be monitored. Same is true for disorder prevention and lifestyle.
Yes, Healthkit will bring great diagnostic tools. Just imagine the world with a division of Apple called iHealth & Wellness powered by Healthkit. Let us not lose the wellness part.
Stay tuned for the rumored October announcements. Steve Jobs created the computer for the rest of us. Tim Cook will revolutionize healthcare. It is the Apple way. Yes, listen to the healthcare community and do it the Apple way anyhow. To quote Steve Jobs, “it is better to be a pirate than join the navy.”