Apple might some day be your primary health care provider

The tech giant has reportedly developed an entire health care program — but it isn't going so well.

Portrait of young female doctor holding an apple in her hand. Concept of healthy food and nutrition.
Alvaro Medina Jurado/Moment/Getty Images

Apple has slowly but surely been cultivating a health-focused tech empire in recent years, with flagship devices like the Apple Watch receiving new health features with each new iteration. Apparently, Apple isn’t willing to just stop at tech: Executives at the company have explored the idea of creating a full Apple-branded healthcare program, according to people familiar with the plans.

The wider Apple healthcare initiative is — at least in theory — much broader than what consumers are seeing today. Apple has considered a wide-reaching program with its own primary-care medical service with Apple-employed doctors at its own clinics. The company has gone as far as to test these initiatives in small clinics that catered to its employees.

A full Apple healthcare program isn’t going public any time soon, though. Sources that spoke to The Wall Street Journal say Apple has largely struggled to get the initiative off the ground. The company’s health unit has instead spent most of its recent time focusing on the company’s health tech instead, especially via the Apple Watch.

A fuller expansion into the healthcare industry sounds ludicrous from a company whose biggest products are smartphones and laptops. But if you’ve been paying attention to Apple’s public-facing health initiatives in recent years, it makes a strange sort of sense.

Questions of integrity — Apple’s primary care service never really got off the ground for a few reasons, according to WSJ’s sources, not the least of which is that the company has fed most of its resources into health tech rather than health services.

Apple also faced problems with data integrity in its pilot program. Documents viewed by WSJ point to concerns raised by employees over data integrity coming from the company’s clinics.

When asked about the initiatives, an Apple spokesperson said data integrity is “the foundation for all of the company’s innovations.” He said as well that the data collected by Apple devices are enabling new research with the potential to improve care. The spokesperson went on to say the reports WSJ viewed are “based on incomplete, outdated, and inaccurate information.”

All for profit — Apple has said that health will be one of Apple’s greatest gifts to humanity. “Gift” is a strong word here, given that everything Apple does is in pursuit of profits. Apple is a business after all, and a massive one at that — any altruism is secondary to the money.

Much of the information reviewed by WSJ indicates that Apple knows its wealth of health data can be used in more creative ways. Early shots at utilizing and expanding that data have fallen flat, though, with low consumer interest and pushback from employees. It doesn’t help that, according to those who have worked on these initiatives, executives aren’t very interested in critical feedback.

All told, it’s looking a lot like Apple’s moonshot dreams of becoming an all-in-one health care provider are unlikely to come to fruition for a very long time (if ever). That’s fine by us. There are plenty of other greedy for-profit health providers out there.