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 Aiming to Make iPhone ‘One-Stop Shop’ for Medical Info

Apple wants the iPhone to serve as a comprehensive health repository for every iPhone user, keeping track of medical data like doctors visits, lab results, medications, and more, reports CNBC.

Apple is said to have a "secretive team" within its health unit that has been communicating with developers, hospitals, and other industry groups about storing clinical data on the iPhone. With all of their medical data at their fingertips, iPhone users would have a better overall picture of their health, which could also be readily shared with doctors.


Apple has been hiring developers familiar with protocols dictating the transfer of electronic health records and has talked with several health IT industry groups, including "The Argonaut Project," which promotes the adoption of open standards for health information, and "The Carin Alliance," a group aiming to give patients more control over their medical data. According to CNBC, Apple VP of software technology Bud Tribble has been working with the latter group.

Apple is also rumored to be looking at startups in the cloud hosting space for acquisitions that would fit into its health plan.
Essentially, Apple would be trying to recreate what it did with music -- replacing CDs and scattered MP3s with a centralized management system in iTunes and the iPod -- in the similarly fragmented and complicated landscape for health data.

Such a move would represent a deviation in strategy from Apple's previous efforts in health care, the people said, which have focused on fitness and wellness.
A centralized way to store all of a person's health data would allow the medical community to overcome existing barriers that prevent the transfer of patient information between medical providers. Hospitals and doctors offices often don't have a simple way to transfer patient information, and online medical portals are sometimes difficult to use with little info available to patients,

Apple already allows iPhone users to record medical data and health information gathered by the Apple Watch and other connected devices in the built-in Health app, and it has delved into health research with CareKit and ResearchKit, but based on these rumors, the company's goal is to expand its health efforts far further in the future.


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Apple Has ‘Secret’ Team of Biomedical Engineers Developing Sensors for Non-Invasively Monitoring Blood Glucose

At a nondescript office in Palo Alto, Apple is rumored to have a small team of biomedical engineers researching better methods for monitoring blood sugar, reports CNBC.

Apple's work on glucose monitoring is said to have started with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who wanted to develop a sensor that could continuously and non-invasively monitor blood sugar levels to improve quality of life. Apple is far enough along in its research that feasibility trials are being conducted at clinical sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it has hired consultants to sort out regulatory issues.
The glucose team is said to report to Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies. [...]

One of the people said that Apple is developing optical sensors, which involves shining a light through the skin to measure indications of glucose.
Rumors of Apple's work on advanced healthcare initiatives like diabetes management aren't new. Early Apple Watch information suggested the wearable device would be able to measure things like blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Many health-related sensors that Apple wanted to include in the original Apple Watch were reportedly dropped because the technology was not consistently accurate, but rumors at the time said Apple would pursue its work on more advanced health sensors. Apple has also made several health-related acquisitions and around the time the Apple Watch was in development, hired dozens of biomedical experts.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has since said that Apple does not want to put the Apple Watch through the FDA approval process, something that would need to happen for more advanced healthcare features, so it is not clear if this is a feature Apple foresees being added to the wrist-worn device. From Tim Cook in 2015:
"We don't want to put the watch through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process. I wouldn't mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it, but not the watch, because it would hold us back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long. But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it -- maybe an app, maybe something else."
If Apple is planning on more advanced sensors for the Apple Watch, such features are not likely to be included in the third-generation device rumored to be coming in the fall of 2017. Information on that device thus far points towards a smaller update focusing on improving battery life and perhaps adding features like cellular connectivity.

While Apple works on its in-house own blood sugar monitoring solution, it has launched CareKit, a platform that allows app developers to create integrated software that allows patients and doctors to better manage medical conditions. Diabetes monitor One Drop was one of the first companies to support CareKit.


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