When Daniel Poston, a second-year medical student in New York, opened the App Store on his iPhone a couple of weeks ago, he was astonished to see an app for a new heart study prominently featured.
Patients often learn about new research studies through in-person conversations with their doctors. But not only did this study, run by Stanford University, use a smartphone to recruit consumers, it was financed by Apple. And it involved using an app on the Apple Watch to try to identify irregular heart rhythms.
Intrigued, Poston, who already owned an Apple Watch, registered for the heart study right away.
“It’s not inconceivable, by the time I graduate from medical school,” Poston said, “that the entire practice of medicine can be revolutionized by technology.”
Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants have transformed the way billions of us communicate, shop, socialize and work. Now, as consumers, medical centers and insurers increasingly embrace health-tracking apps, tech companies want a bigger share of the more than $3 trillion spent annually on health care in the United States. The Apple Heart Study reflects that intensified effort.
The companies are accelerating their efforts to remake health care by developing or collaborating on new tools for consumers, patients, doctors, insurers and medical researchers. And they are increasingly investing in health startups.
In the first 11 months of this year, 10 of the largest tech companies in the United States were involved in health care equity deals worth $2.7 billion, up from just $277 million for all of 2012, according to data from CB Insights, a research firm that tracks venture capital and startups.
Each tech company is taking its own approach, betting that its core business strengths could ultimately improve people’s health — or at least make health care more efficient. Apple, for example, has focused on its consumer products, Microsoft on online storage and analytics services, and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, on data.