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Apple Buys Healthcare 'Magic Machine'

By John P. Mello Jr.
Aug 24, 2016 5:00 AM PT
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Apple has purchased medical records startup Gliimpse, Fast Company reported Monday, in order to broaden its presence in the personal healthcare information management market.

Apple confirmed that the purchase took place earlier this year, according to the magazine.

Apple in recent years has delved into healthcare with offerings such as HealthKit, CareKit and ResearchKit. The Gliimpse acquisition is seen as an extension of those efforts.

"Apple is highly committed to creating products and services around health," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

"Gliimpse gives Apple another powerful data-tracking tool to tie to their health ecosystem of products and services," he told TechNewsWorld.

'Magical Machine'

Gliimpse has been working for three years on its technology, which it refers to as "a magical machine."

The aim is to eliminate the tower of babble plaguing medical data today by converting medical records that can appear incomprehensible into information that both humans and machines can digest and use.

Apple so far has focused on healthcare information gathered outside the clinical spectrum, said Roeen Roashan, senior analyst for healthcare technology at IHS Markit.

"With Gliimpse, you're opening up the system with hospital records, lab records, and data from pharmacies," he told TechNewsWorld. "That not only expands Apple's reach and strengthens its product, but it also enhances its analytics capabilities in terms of providing better patient care."

Guessing Game

What Apple will do with Gliimpse's technology is anyone's guess, as the company is known for keeping its plans under tight wraps.

"Apple might consider Gliimpse a critical technology to an overarching healthcare service, or it may simply see it as complementary to other Apple health and fitness solutions," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "At this point, it's impossible to say."

Purchasing Gliimpse could signal a new direction for Apple, noted Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.

"I think we're seeing arguably the beginning of a new type of Apple that's looking outside its core into a number of different areas and seeing how they can be a disrupter," he told TechNewsWorld. "Healthcare is one of those areas."

Formidable Challenge

Healthcare can be challenging for vendors who are already in the business, let alone for newcomers like Apple.

"The main challenge in this space is interoperability across systems -- not only within Apple's platforms, but also across provider networks and the rest of the healthcare sector," IHS' Roashan explained.

Numerous challenges face any company doing business in healthcare, Pund-IT's King told TechNewsWorld. They include a lack of consensus among healthcare providers and services, a reliance on proprietary technologies, and fierce competition among stakeholders.

"Even initiatives like electronic medical records can result in confusion -- at least when it comes to sharing records with nonaffiliated doctors and facilities," he added.

The problems only get worse when you go outside the United States, noted Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

"Each country has its own compliance schema and laws, making things complex," he told TechNewsWorld, "which plays against the consumer's need for ease of use."

Baby Steps

With Gliimpse, Apple may be able to reduce some of the healthcare system friction that so frustrates its users.

"This is a baby step toward democratizing healthcare information and creating a more empowered consumer of healthcare," said Jeff Dachis, CEO of One Drop.

"The first step in doing that is giving consumers their own healthcare information," he told TechNewsWorld. "Gliimpse potentially offers that to them."

Giving consumers control of their own health data could be beneficial to both patients and the vendor that cracks the data-sharing problem.

"The idea of patients owning and managing their health information could make medical visits simpler, and diagnosis and treatment safer and more relevant," suggested Pund-It's King.

"The company that gets it right could become massively successful and prosperous," he added. "At the same time, meeting healthcare regulations and security requirements is not for the faint of heart, and numerous healthcare stakeholders are likely see such efforts as endangering the well being of their businesses."

Neither Apple nor Gliimpse reponded to our requests to comment for this story.


John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.


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