Apple CEO: Apple Watch has 'Enormous' Potential For Healthcare

It looks like the Apple Watch might eventually have a lot more health features baked in.  Speaking at Startup Fest Europe this week in Amsterdam, Cook said that he thought that the Apple Watch had “enormous” potential when it comes to healthcare, and could ultimately be used as a warning system of sorts for health problems, similar to how the check engine light works in your car. That way you might know something is wrong before you ever experience any physical symptoms.

"If you think about some of society's biggest problems and challenges, one of the ones that we are really focused on is health,” CNBC reports Cook saying at the conference. "And arguably the health care system can be made much simpler, can have much better results, you can have patients that really feel like customers...and have systems and applications that bring out the best in the medical professionals...I think the runway there is enormous.”

He goes on to talk about how much he enjoys using the Apple Watch, and how he feels the device might one day become even more common.

"I love the watch. One day, this is my prediction, we will look back and we will wonder: how can I ever have gone without the Watch?,” Cook said. “Because the holy grail of the watch is being able to monitor more and more of what's going on in the body. It's not technologically possible to do it today to the extent that we can imagine, but it will be,”

Healthcare is certainly something that Apple is becoming more and more passionate about.

 Apple has also recently published a job listing on its site, searching for a lawyer that specializes in health privacy regulations. The job, which will be based in Apple’s Santa Clara office is for someone to work directly with the company’s business and engineering teams to design new privacy solutions for products, as well as work with Apple’s legal department on regulatory issues and other Apple activities.

“At Apple, we are about creating great products. Part of making products great is designing products that respect consumer security and privacy,” reads the ad. “This role offers the opportunity to work directly with key members of the business, engineering and legal teams on a variety of cutting-edge projects including privacy by design reviews and projects  assist with privacy complaints and breaches  support compliance and auditing frameworks  advise on privacy aspects of licensing and procurement deals and corporate acquisitions  assist with drafting of policies and procedures surrounding privacy laws.” 

Already in Use

The Apple Watch is already being used as a warning system of sorts in some tests.

An app called Epi Watch being tested at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has patients take daily surveys and make journal entries about their disease and tries to get them to document when they have seizures and what happens to their body prior to one come on. Thanks to the Apple Watch’s  heart rate monitor, accelerometer, and gyroscope, researchers are able to track changes in heart rate as well as body movement in patients, ultimately gaining a better understanding of the disease.

The hope is by tracking exactly what’s happening to patients before they have a seizure, researchers will be able to determine exactly what happens in the moments before, and potentially warm patients a seizure is coming on. For someone with epilepsy, that knowledge could be exceptionally powerful and dramatically improve their quality of life.

"We foresee the app giving some parents the confidence to allow their children to play on their own," said Gregory Krauss, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in a statement on the university’s Hub. "For some adults, using it might allow them, for the first time, to live safely alone.”

Cancer patients in Camden, New Jersey are also using the Apple Watch as part of their cancer treatment. While the watch has very little to do with their treatment physically, wearing the Apple Watch allows doctors to monitor a patient’s condition while they’re at home. That means that a doctor can tell exactly how a particular treatment affected a patient, without requiring him or her to be under constant observation in a hospital environment. For instance, a doctor might be able to see that a person’s heart rate was elevated after a particular type of treatment, or that something made him or her more sedentary than usual. The app is also used to monitor patient’s moods, by asking them a few questions about their general mental state each day.

“The app allows us to stay in touch with our patients while they’re in care at home and in the hospital by measuring their physical condition through the watch and their mental condition through a series of questions that we ask so we can get a more holistic view of their health,” Mark Anthony, CEO of Polaris Health, told FOXBusiness.

Smart Bands

Those potential healthcare possibilities don’t have to be restricted to the Apple Watch body. Earlier this year, a third-party manufacturer called Kardia unveiled the Kardia Band, an Apple Watch band that works as a medical-grade EKG reader. 

“Kardia Band for Apple Watch represents both the future of proactive heart health and the introduction of the Wearable MedTech category,” said Vic Gundotra, chief executive officer of AliveCor. “These combined technologies give us the ability to deliver personal reports that provide analysis, insights and actionable advice for the patient and their doctor.”

Gundora’s name might sound familiar. He previously worked at Google as the head of Google+. He joined the company behind the band, AliveCor, in November of last year. 

And then Apple itself has been rumored to be working on its own "Smart Bands" for the Apple Watch. The bands are rumored to connect to the smart port on the existing Apple Watch and will be able to monitor things like Blood pressure, blood oxygen, body temperature, and respiratory rate. The bands were initially rumored to be coming at the beginning of 2016. While that didn’t happen, there’s still the possibility that we’ll see smart bands come during Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) in June.

Health Tracking

As it stands, the Apple Watch is already a fairly powerful health tool. the device can monitor your movement as well as your heart rate and can do things like track particular workouts, reporting back your calorie burn for those activities.

The Workout functionality in the Apple Watch is a feature that I’ve particularly enjoyed about the wearable. Each week, the Apple Watch suggests workout goals based on what you were able to accomplish the previous week. It may sound like a small thing, but being able to gradually increase your workout/calorie burn week or week was exceptionally helpful for me, and allowed me to essentially triple a number of calories I was burning with each workout, without actually realizing I was increasing it.

That gradual increase is key, that way you’re not starting out with too high of a goal, and then becoming frustrated when you aren’t able to meet it. I also really enjoy the Apple Watch’s standing reminders. Also a small thing, but when you work at a job that keeps you confined to your desk all day, a small reminder suggesting that you get up and take a walk around the room for a minute can go a long way, and ultimately make you a ton healthier over time.

A New Apple Watch

One thing we definitely expect to see at WWDC: a new Apple Watch.

There have been quite a few rumors in recent months about the next-generation of the Apple Watch, a device that is expected to make its debut on stage at WWDC in June. Amongst other features, the device is expected to potentially have cell connectivity. That means that you’ll be able to use it even when your iPhone isn’t around.

Other updates expected to come with the next generation of the watch include a thinner design, longer-life battery, as well as be a bit more durable than the current version. The newest version of the Apple Watch is also rumored to have a built-in FaceTime camera, enabling you to video chat with friends without having to pull out your phone or computer in order to do so.

The newest version of the Apple Watch is also expected to be a popular one, perhaps pulling in more sales than the previous version.

According to a recent survey, two thirds of current Apple Watch owners plan on upgrading to the newest version of the Apple Watch when it is released to the public, even though they currently have no idea when that will be, or what improvements might come to the device. That same survey asked those who had yet to purchase a smartwatch what was keeping them from making the purchase. By in large, those customers indicated that price was the main barrier ​to them deciding to buy, even after the recent price drop for the Apple Watch.

Earlier this year, Apple dropped the entry price for the Apple Watch by $50, a move that many felt was designed to increase sales before the company introduced a new version of the device.