According to recent reports tech company Apple has hired more than 40 doctors in recent years.
However, some of these doctors are keeping their role in the company private. Sources say they are influential, scattered across teams, and helping guide strategy as the company delves into health care.
Apple has dozens of medical doctors working across its various teams, say two people familiar with the company’s hiring, showing how serious it is about health tech.
Apple is hoping that by hiring doctors, who are potentially its harshest critics when it comes to health tech, they can overcome this and win doctors over.
Apple is developing health technologies to integrate into its devices such as the Apple Watch, iPad and iPhone.
It also suggests that Apple will build applications that can help people with serious medical problems, and not just cater to the “worried well,” as many have speculated.
For instance, the new Apple Watch Series 4 adds heart-monitoring features, letting users track their heart rhythms and detect signs of atrial fibrillation, which is the most common type of irregular heartbeat and can lead to heart problems and stroke.
But doctors, and particularly cardiologists, are questioning whether the features, which include the ability to take an electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the heart’s electrical activity, will actually help users.
The hiring of these doctors is not just for show, according to people familiar with the doctors and their roles. Many haven’t disclosed their role at Apple at all, which is commonplace at a company that prides itself on secrecy. One example is a Stanford paediatrician, who has worked there for several years. CNBC was able to locate 20 physicians at Apple via LinkedIn searches and familiar sources, and other people said as many as 50 doctors work there. Apple has more than 130,000 employees globally.
Other tech companies also employ doctors.
A LinkedIn search revealed a handful at Amazon and more than a dozen across Alphabet, with the biggest chunk at Verily (its life sciences arm), Brain (its AI research group) and the venture investing groups. However, the actual number of doctors at these companies may be higher, depending on how strict they are about confidentiality.
Analysts believe the number of doctors on staff at Apple is an indication that the company is serious about helping customers manage disease, and not just wellness or fitness.
In one example, the company hired an orthopaedic surgeon, to manage its partnership with medical device maker Zimmer Biomet.
The aim being to study whether Apple technology can help patients recover from knee and hip replacement surgery.
Doctors can also help Apple guide the medical community on how to use Apple’s new health technologies and to deflect criticism.
As an example, when Apple announced its electrocardiogram sensor to track heart rhythm irregularities, the company put up a website to help answer physicians’ questions.
That’s important because there’s a very high bar to win approval among doctors who fear liability and are already overburdened by technology.
Apple’s doctors work across the whole organisation and are not confined to any one singular group.
Many are working on Apple Watch, which has a variety of different product groups focusing on health sensors (several teams contain an embedded doctor, according to sources.
Some are on the health records group, helping develop the company’s software to aggregate patient medical information and store it securely, and others are doing research and development work.
There have also been more hirings recently into Apple’s AC Wellness primary care group, which treats employees near its headquarters.
Some of these come from Crossover Health, which Apple contracts with to provide health care to employees in other locations.