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Apple wants to shift the mindsets of doctors and patients, says Health VP

Dr. Sumbul Desai

Apple's work in healthcare goes beyond the immediate need of the consumer, with the company wanting to to improve preventative care and aid in research, according to Health VP Dr. Sumbul Desai.

After speaking at India's BioAsia 2023 conference about Apple's preventative health work, Dr. Desai is continuing to court the media about the company's efforts in the field.

Apple is still at the beginning of its health journey, "because ultimately health tech is a very large people change management problem," Desai told The Hindu Business Line. "You have to change the behavior of physicians and then you have to change the patients' and customers' behaviour. Behavior change is one of the hardest things to do."

Apple works to "empower an individual to be holistic about their health," by providing actionable insights "founded in scientific evidence" and based on their own data.

When asked about CEO Tim Cook's statements that Apple's biggest contribution will be in the health space, Desai pushes the point further, saying Apple is working to "really focus on bringing more awareness and empowerment to each individual so that they truly are going to have the driver's seat of their own health."

Investments in research and collaborations are also brought up as ways to help Apple understand people's health "sooner and earlier," as a preventative measure.

"If we can touch people's lives in a way, where we can prevent them from developing diseases, or actually be healthier and feel like they're empowered and educated to drive their own health care," the doctor said. "There's nothing more impactful than that."

The interview also meanders into privacy, part of Desai's BioAsia talk, with the VP stressing the privacy-forward nature of Apple's systems, including encryption and local-to-device storage. "You should expect the same level of privacy from your technology as you would expect from your doctor. That's the standard we hold ourselves to," Desai proposes.

On democratizing the availability of health tools to a larger population, Desai stresses that Apple isn't planning to replace or deliver healthcare. However, the company's diversification of its product lines helps make the same tools more available, especially to those who don't want premium hardware.

Apple also donates units of the Apple Watch to researchers for use in research programs.

When asked about research stemming from India, Desai points out some of the best researchers come from the country and its "world-class research community."

Other subjects brought up in the interview include a need to allow companies to innovate "regardless of size" in response to drama with US lawmakers, and a sidestepping of the glucose sensor topic.