Apple COO Jeff Williams is increasingly come out out about his personal passion for health care.
In Williams’ view, the coming of medicine involves the patient at the center of the health experience armed with their text. And Apple can play a pivotal role in collecting this information entirely its massively popular consumer hardware like the iPhone and Apple Gaze at.
The company on Thursday announced its next step into the space with a first-of-its-kind office, the Apple Heart Study, to collect data on whether its smartwatch can perceive a type of abnormality with the heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation.
Williams spoke with CNBC on the facts of the study and the company’s interest in health. Here’s a transcript of that parley, edited for length and clarity.
CNBC: Let’s jump right into the communication. Can you give me an overview of how the Apple Heart study will work?
Jeff Williams: It’s a moment ago a simple study, and people do studies all the time, but we think this is a actually, really special time. To date all of the work that we’ve done with the Apple Be careful of and the heart rate monitor has been focused on heart rate, and in the survive Watch, our last course, we released a discordance feature which gives people to get notifications if the heart detects an eminently high heart tariff when it thinks they’re at rest. With the (Heart Study) app, the babysit for will look at heart rhythm.
CNBC: How will it look at empathy rhythm?
Williams: The EKG is actually is actually the electrical signal in your pluck. And then your heart chambers beat, and it pumps blood, but you can notify a lot about heart rhythm by looking at the pulse wave, as the blood deluges from the veins. And so that’s what the Photoplethysmogram (PPG) on the watch does. It looks at the beating wave, and we can look at those beat-to-beat intervals, which allows us to look and scent irregular heart rhythms. And we can tune this to look for irregular feelings rhythms that are consistent with atrial fibrillation. And that’s a big huge quantity. I think you probably know a bit about it, but just to make sure we’re all up to zip: AFib (atrial fibrillation) is when your heart chambers area asynchronously. And the problem with that is, the blood starts to pool, and you distinguish, your blood is designed to clot. That’s what keeps you from bleeding to eradication when you get a cut. And the problem is, if it starts to clot in your heart and then that make a trips, it can cause problems like stroke. And so AFib is a leading cause of attack. And stroke is a leading cause of death around the world.
CNBC: And being often don’t feel it coming?
Williams: One of the big challenges with AFib is that people with AFib in many cases don’t feel the symptoms — it’s asymptomatic. There are pretty clear interventions ready, but people don’t know they have the problem. So we believe that ascertaining AFib will put people in a better position to effect their well-being and hopefully save a lot of lives. That’s what this study at the highest standing is about. The way this is gonna work, anybody over age 22 in the Of like mind States — there’s a few conditions we exclude, people who are already being treated for AFib and other details — but, in general, anybody can download this app, starting tomorrow. That’s a new way to do studies. This is a bit of a breakthrough in that it’s a understood clinical trial. There are probably some other clinical trying outs that have used apps to some degree, but one broadly on tap to a large population is one we think will deliver a better perspective. Profuse trials are done with a limited amount of people and they’re based in a specific limited geography, and this gives us a much broader population and the gifts for many, many people to participate. And we’ve taken a very thoughtful make a proposal to to this, and we’ve embraced the medical community. What we didn’t want to do was well-deserved release an app that said, “we think we’ve detected AFib” and let the customer categorize it out from there.
CNBC: Say more about that participation with the medical community.
Williams: We’ve enchanted a broad view of the translational aspects of this to the medical community. So what will become of come upon is, when the watch detects an arrhythmia consistent with AFib, it liking notify the user, and the user will then be able to connect with a reading physician. Obviously if there’s an immediate concern, the study physician could lecture that. The most likely step that a physician takes after someone has the syndromes of arrhythmia is, they would get an ECG patch. And so as part of this study, the think over coordinators will send the people an ECG patch. And the customer will deterioration that and mail it back in. And then there’s a follow-up with the patron. So we’re following the customers through and the ultimate goal of this is, is to verify our genius to really empower people with more information about their salubrity with respect to arrhythmias.
CNBC: Understood. And the video aspect with the scan physician, is that going to be through a telemedicine-type service?
Williams: It is. We confederated with American Well, and they are going to provide the physician’s truss, and the customers have a choice of a regular phone call or a video colloquy. And the video conference is useful, because sometimes you can see things from a physician’s angle when you’re interacting with a patient, so we’ve built that into the app. The area is being sent from biotelemetry and will be pulled back and pore over and I think it’s a really neat opportunity to look at arrhythmia across a general population. Our primary goal is to detect arrhythmias consistent with AFib with the utmost goal of reducing strokes and saving lives — that’s the primary object. What’s interesting is there’s a real secondary opportunity here to promote heart science. One of the things that became clear to us, when we were inciting in the study — we met a lot of key opinion leaders, cardiologists, and there are — one of the things we discovered is, there are fetching clear guidelines about what to do with someone who has AFib if they are older and bear certain conditions. What there is a lack of clarity on is what to do with green people with AFib. All of the cardiologists we spoke to said there’s a verified dearth of information, because the prevalence is low and it hasn’t been studied adequately. And now we would rather an opportunity with so many people wearing Apple watches, to promote in a really different way, and hopefully we can learn a lot about arrhythmia in people who are brood, and contribute to heart science and help people live a better fixation. And so, that’s a really interesting aspect of this that I think a few being will take note of.
CNBC: Absolutely. And I’m wondering, as well, helter-skelter the regulatory aspect of this, because I’m assuming that you talked to FDA round how to communicate back to a user, you know, “Hey, we think that you might be clothing an arrhythmia, you should talk to one of our physicians.” Can you talk or speak a little bit to that?
Williams: We certainly make excited with the FDA. We have Stanford Medicine leading the study, which we intend is fantastic. We’ve engaged with the FDA and we plan to submit the results to the FDA, so we’ve taken into account all of the apportion language not to inappropriately alarm people and try to make this a very dogmatic experience for our customers.
Farr: Do you see the Apple Watch as a potential medical whim in the future if the study results come back positive and you find that you can use this as a blue ribbon line of defense health-monitoring tool?
Williams: First off, I can say, I already about that Apple Watch can help people with their condition and for their medical activity, but in terms of classifying it as a regulated medical contrivance, I do not view that this study will make the Apple sentinel hardware a regulated medical device. What the software that the app, or the software, for this picky detail indication, will be labeled is to be determined. We don’t know what that is yet.
CNBC: Got it. And so where did this surface from, this desire to want to use the watch to save lives in this way? I’ve heard on spot these stories of people saying, “the Apple watch saved my obsession.” Was it very organic? Or did you have this vision of it being a tool for this purpose in the inception?
Williams: You know, it’s interesting. It has been a very organic journey. We didn’t wake up one day and say, “warmly we’ve done the phone, we’ve done the iPad, why don’t we knock out health next.” That’s not how it encountered. We knew when we built Apple Watch that it was the most dear device we’ve ever made, and we thought we had an opportunity to help people white-hot a better life with their health, but, quite honestly, we’ve been positively surprised with the deluge of letters and emails we’ve gotten where proper the simple heart rate monitor was able to have such an weight on people’s’ lives. And we’ve been really inspired and we want to do even varied. There’s been a lot of speculation about what Apple may or may not be doing in fitness. But I’ll tell you our focus is empowering consumers, empowering individuals to play a uncountable active role in their health. Most of us live in an era, or in a world where you go see your doctor when you’re repelled, you do what you’re told, and that’s really it for your view of the medical men. You play a very passive role. You’re a passenger in the car. And it’s very clear to us that the days is very different. The future is people are going to be more empowered with tidings about their health and they’re going to play a more nimble role. They’ll sometimes drive the car. And a lot of people say, “Well, what does that inferior for physicians?” And I don’t think it reduces the role of the physician at all. Rather, I think it arms the physician with numerous information, and it gives them engagement with an engaged consumer — and that becomes behavior. And that’s what most physicians would say, “If I could spunk behavior change, I could have a real impact on health.”
CNBC: I assume there’s been so much speculation, because Apple is a company that is associated with consumer delectation. You think about the healthcare experience and it’s just often very scary. Is that something that has drawn you into health? And how do you look at the everything of the health care experience, where there are so many opportunities for Apple to accomplish a difference, whether it’s kind of pulling data together into the phone or, you certain, tracking health conditions on the watch, and say, “This is what we’re going to prioritize”?
Williams: I fancy what I would say is there are huge opportunities here. Our focus as the crow flies now is on empowering the individual. There’s lots of places when you pull on the filament where this could lead, but we’ve got a lot of work to do to empower consumers, get them preoccupied, and there’s just a ton of opportunity beyond that.
CNBC: Is this a close passion for you? I get that feeling in hearing you talk about it.
Williams: It entirely is. It’s a personal passion for me, it’s a personal passion for the members of our health team, and the unalloyed executive team has embraced this. It’s not hard to get excited about this. The fact is, if you ever have a loved one that has a serious health condition, caboodle else you thought was a priority in life falls to the bottom of the list. And we see so much chance, and can’t think of a better use of Apple resources.
CNBC: And is this a real concern for Apple? Is this a business that you envision making real capital in, or is it more something that you approach with a philanthropic lens, where you say “our consumers for this and we can do them a service”?
Williams: You know, we haven’t spent a ton of dead for now on that, in terms of trying to reconcile those two. I do think there’s a valid opportunity to empower people, and if in the process they wear more be prepares and other things, that’s good for us. But right now, our goal is to make the master products and services we know how to make, and we assume everything else when one pleases sort itself out down the road.
CNBC: You’re a hardware guy and super scrape before on sensors. Is there any other interesting opportunities that you see in hardware, you recognize, beyond just the wrist or potentially more on the wrist that we haven’t reviewed yet?
Williams: There’s nothing to announce now. What I would say is, when you start pace off the human body, it’s really interesting and difficult. Engineers, we often interpret difficult problems — really challenging problems — but at least the electrons course the same way every time. And the human body is this constantly varying thing. And so I think there are plenty of challenges but there’s still moment.
CNBC: I have a personal interest in the medical records space and some of the unused issues around interoperability of data, like getting health low-down to one place. So it was exciting for me to go down to Cedars-Sinai hospital recently and talk to some patients who had the salubriousness app on the iPhone. They pulled it up and they could see their medical documentation and their labs and a bunch of other data sources all in one place. Which is a new, more new thing. What do you see as the potential here, and how does that lend itself to the undertaking of empowering consumers to bring this data onto the phone — framing the phone a personal health record?
Williams: You know, we’ve announced already the know-how to import health records. And we believe that every person in the on cloud nine ought to have their health information. We think the right diggings for the health information to exist is with the person on their device. And we accept from a privacy standpoint, that where that information make do c leaves shared should be — should be completely up to the individual. There’s nothing numberless personal than your health information. And so we view that as the following. It’s really unfortunate that today, uh, the pieces of your medical narrate and history are spread and sitting in servers of various companies around the sphere, and it ought to be sitting on the device that you carry every day. And so, that we view as the tomorrow.
CNBC: So we might see more from Apple in that area?
Williams: Deferment tuned.