Key Stanford Medical Researcher Joins Apple’s Health Team

Apple has hired the lead doctor of Stanford University's digital health initiative, Sumbul Desai, to take on an unspecified role in one of the tech company's health projects. The hire was rumored earlier this month, but Stanford Medicine confirmed it to Internet Health Management on Friday.

Desai headed up Stanford's Center for Digital Health, launched by the university's School of Medicine in January 2017. The center's mission is to enhance Stanford's digital health initiatives by collaborating with technology companies and undertaking clinical research and education. The center also helped develop MyHeart Counts, a cardiovascular disease app built using ResearchKit in collaboration with the University of Oxford.

Desai worked at Stanford since 2008, beginning as a resident physician of internal medicine, before holding numerous roles including: Medical director of strategic innovations, assistant chief of strategy, clinical associate professor, associate chief medical officer of strategy and innovation, vice chair of strategy and innovation, and chief for the Center of Digital Health.

Apple has not revealed what role Desai will play at the company, whether she might join the team working on ResearchKit, HealthKit, and CareKit, or if she will work on an unrelated project. Apple has made several healthcare-related hires in recent years. In September it recruited Dr Mike Evans, a staff physician from St Michaels Hospital in Toronto and an associate professor of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto. Two months later the company also hired Dr Ricky Bloomfield, who was director of mobile technology and strategy at Duke University Health System.

Apple has also hired Stanford doctor Rajiv Kumar, who has experience using HealthKit to help patients with diabetes, and Dr Stephen Friend, who helped build the data infrastructure for many ResearchKit apps.

Apple has kept quiet regarding what kind of products its health team is working on, but the company is known to be investigating advanced medical monitoring features, possibly for a future Apple Watch. The company is said to be working on implementing a new glucose monitoring feature and interchangeable smart bands, for example, while Apple CEO Tim Cook was allegedly spotted testing a prototype glucose monitor connected to his Apple Watch last month.


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Apple Working With Health Gorilla to Offer Comprehensive Medical Records on iPhone

In its quest to turn the iPhone into a comprehensive health repository for every iPhone user, Apple has teamed up with Health Gorilla, a company specializing in aggregating diagnostic information, reports CNBC.

Citing two sources familiar with Apple's plans, CNBC says Apple is working with Health Gorilla to add diagnostic data to the iPhone by cooperating with hospitals, imaging centers, and lab-testing companies. According to Health Gorilla's website, the startup offers a secure clinical network that aggregates health data from a range of providers, offering doctors and hospitals access to a comprehensive overview of a patient's health.

While the service is aimed at medical providers, patients are also able to use the service to get a copy of their medical records "in 10 minutes."

Access your complete health profile in one place, from prior medical history, to doctor and specialist referrals, to your latest test results. It's all available through Health Gorilla's secure clinical network, anytime - from your computer or your favorite device on the go.

Thousands of physicians, specialists, labs, clinics, health centers, hospitals, and other facilities are already connected to Health Gorilla. Reach them easily, and securely share information with everyone in your care circle - whether medical professionals or family and loved ones.
Last week, CNBC said Apple has a "secretive team" within its health unit that has been communicating with developers, hospitals, and industry groups with the aim of storing clinical data on the iPhone and turning it into a "one-stop shop" for medical info.

Apple wants to create a centralized database for all of a person's health data, which would allow the medical community to overcome existing barriers that often prevent or complicate the transfer of patient data between providers, ultimately resulting in better care for patients.

Through Health Gorilla, the Health app on the iPhone could perhaps include a range of data sourced directly from different health providers in the future, offering up blood work results, x-rays, physical therapy information, and more.

In addition to allegedly working with Health Gorilla, Apple is also said to have hired several developers familiar with the protocols dictating the transfer of electronic health records, and it has also talked with several health IT industry groups dedicated to universal medical records, including The Argonaut Project and The Carin Alliance.

Integration of detailed health records would make the Health app, which already aggregates medical data and health information from the Apple Watch and other connected devices, an even more valuable resource for iPhone users.


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Apple Exploring Electronic Tagging Solution For Easily Tracking Dietary Intake

Apple is exploring an electronic tagging solution to make it easier for Apple Watch users to track their calorie and nutritional intake as part of a healthy lifestyle, as shown in a patent newly granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Many of today's healthy eating and diet-based food apps require users to manually input nutrition information into their mobile devices, whether by scanning barcodes with their phone's camera or inputting nutritional figures unit by unit. It's the sort of repetitive and time-consuming exercise that often causes users to give up on their diet-tracking, but Apple's invention offers a much more convenient solution.


Titled "Electronic tag transmissions of custom-order nutritional information", the patent describes a system that allows food vendors to encode nutritional information into radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on the fly. The tags can be generated to accompany multiple-item orders at a food counter, as an attachment to the food packaging or as part of a purchase receipt. The tags can then be used to automatically transmit the nutrition data to the customer's NFC-capable device, such as an iPhone or Apple Watch.

In one example detailed in the patent, an RFID tag combines the multiple variables that make up a customer's bespoke food order – such as the bread, cheese, meat, and sauces in a hamburger – to generate accurate nutritional information for the end user. Once these details are transmitted to the user's mobile device, a health monitoring app subtracts the numbers from a daily calorie intake limit as defined in advance, allowing for a more measured, less bothersome way of recording eating habits.

If such a system ever come to market, its success would depend on the wide adoption of the technology by all kinds of food vendors – a difficult undertaking that suggests Apple's aims may not be so grand. As noted by AppleInsider, it's possible the RFID tagging could be used in company cafeterias and restaurants for the benefit of employees – in Apple Park, for example.

Apple has increased its focus on health and medical technology that integrates with its mobile devices in recent years, with iPhone and Apple Watch being at the center of its plans. HealthKit framework debuted in 2014, allowing developers to build health monitoring software that integrates with Apple's Health app, while Apple's open source framework ResearchKit was made available to developers in April 2015, enabling them to create their own iPhone apps for medical research purposes.


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Robotics and Machine Learning Expert Yoky Matsuoka Returning to Nest After Leaving Apple

yokymatsuokaLast May, Apple hired Nest's former Vice President of Technology, Yoky Matsuoka, to help run the company's health initiatives, but she ended up leaving Apple towards the end of 2016. Matsuoka is now joining the Nest team once again as the Alphabet-owed company has re-hired the robotics expert as the Chief Technology Officer for the Nest Learning Thermostat (via Bloomberg).

In her new role, she will "define a long-term technology roadmap" for the smart home accessory company, using her expertise in machine learning.

Matsuoka is also said to be encouraged by Alphabet to identify other companies under the corporate umbrella where Nest might be able to form a beneficial partnership through collaborations "on technology and product development."
Alphabet Inc. re-hired Yoky Matsuoka to oversee technology at its Nest Labs Inc. smart home unit, snapping up the robotics and artificial intelligence expert after she recently left Apple Inc.

As Chief Technology Officer, Matsuoka will work closely with Nest's engineering and product teams to define a long-term technology roadmap. She'll be responsible for identifying important enabling technologies for Nest products and services, such as sensors and machine learning, while partnering with outside companies.
During her time at Apple, Matsuoka worked under the company's chief operating officer Jeff Williams, who is in charge of Apple's health initiatives like ResearchKit, HealthKit, and CareKit. Originally at Nest, Matsuoka developed the technology that lets the Nest Learning Thermostat adapt to environmental conditions and learn from past usage. She also co-founded the experimental project lab Google X, which has created Google's self-driving car and Google Glass.

Matsuoka was part of Nest when it was founded by "iPod father" Tony Fadell in 2010, but Fadell has now left the company, noting in a blog post last summer that it was the right time to "leave the Nest." Since he left, Fadell has become an advisor to Nest and Alphabet CEO Larry Page. According to Bloomberg, Matsuoka's return to Nest might help lead to a smoother 2017, following a few years of protracted product releases and recalled devices.


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Stanford Announces New Program to Discover ‘Innovative Uses’ for Apple Watch in Healthcare

Stanford University has opened up submissions to faculty members for an Apple Watch Seed Grant, an inaugural program "focused on innovative uses of the Apple Watch in healthcare" (via Cult of Mac). The program is designed to "stimulate and support" the creation of new uses for the Apple Watch in the healthcare field, an area that Apple has long been a proponent of since the wearable launched in 2015.

In total, up to 1,000 Apple Watch devices will be offered through the seed grant program, which is being given $10,000 in funding and run through Stanford's Center for Digital Health within the School of Medicine. The CDH's proposal notes mention that while 1,000 Apple Watches will be given out in total, depending on the project proposals that get accepted, a higher or lower allocation of devices may be provided.

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Submissions are open to a select group of Stanford faculty members and close February 26, while the study as a whole will run for one year beginning April 2017. The goal of the program is to use either the Apple Watch's activity tracking or communication features to see how the device can make a change in healthcare:
"The Apple Watch must be integrated into an overall program or study design where: 1) the sensing capability of the Watch (activity, heart rate, and/or raw accelerometer data) is used to measure the progress of an endpoint relevant to the study population; or 2) the communication/notification features of the Watch are used to drive behavior change/coaching (investigators must use an iOS app with a Watch app extension or design a workflow where push notifications can be delivered to the Watch).
The Apple Watch has been a representative of Apple's push into health initiatives for nearly two years now, from the debut of the original device and the Activity Rings in 2015 to the announcement of the fitness-focused Apple Watch Series 2 last September. The Apple Watch is just one part of Apple's health initiatives, however, which consists of the Health app, HealthKit and CareKit, and a collection of company acquisitions and talent hires that highlight its desire to merge health and wellness with technology.

On the eve of the Apple Watch's launch Apple CEO Tim Cook described services like ResearchKit and the Health app as "significantly underestimated" sections of the technology market. When asked about the "next frontiers" in product development, Cook described health initiatives, and all of the progress made by Apple to provide detailed analysis of a user's well-being, as "the biggest one of all."


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