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Dr. Sumbul Desai talks about Apple's goals to 'democratize health'

Dr Sumbul Desai

Apple's vice president of health, Dr. Sumbul Desai, spoke at Web Summit 2022, discussing Apple's bold vision for healthcare.

The presentation focused on how Apple utilizes the Apple Watch, iPhone, and iOS to "democratize healthcare."

She acknowledged that the company is still in the early stages of what is possible but is optimistic about the future and technology's role in patient healthcare.

Specifically, the company wants to give users tools to monitor their health from home, alerting them to risky situations such as atrial fibrillation or low blood oxygen levels.

"The challenge with modern medicine is that the treatments only work on the patients who seek them out," she said in her Web Summit speech. "And, as a result, outcomes depend not only on treatment, but on timing."

She notes that doctors often do not control when a patient comes to see them. For many patients, that may only be after they've begun to experience physical symptoms. Detecting severe medical conditions before patients are symptomatic means doctors can intervene quickly, resulting in saved lives.

"What if you had in your hands, or on your wrist, the data, the warning, the red flag, that told you to see a doctor before you knew anything was wrong," she said.

She discussed how the Apple Watch has encouraged users to take control of their health proactively, too. She argued that users live healthier lives because the Apple Watch helps them achieve fitness goals, track cycles, and remind them to stop and breathe.

Apple's engineers work with healthcare organizations and medical institutions to improve Apple devices' health features.

Dr. Desai also discussed how third-party developers can use the hardware and features of the Apple Watch and iPhone to create innovative apps for specific conditions.

NightWare, for example, can use the heart rate, accelerometer, and gyroscope of the Apple Watch to detect nightmares. Then, using vibration, NightWare can help disrupt a nightmare, allowing the wearer to wake up sooner.

"Together, what we're building is a holistic health system," she said. "One that provides constant monitoring and deeper insights, and with them, peace of mind."