Amazon and Apple Continue to Invest in At-Home and Digital Healthcare (The MedTech Download)

Kelly Springs-Kelley
June 21, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • In accordance with Amazon’s continued and vast expansion of services, its COVID tests will now be available to the public for about $40 a pop.
  • Apple recently announced new heath features for its devices that  help users track and share health data with their physicians.
  • Researchers at Purdue created “smart garments” that take electrical power from nearby Wi-Fi networks and radio waves to power body monitoring devices.

Amazon Offers COVID-19 Test Online to Consumers with a Website for Viewing Results

While now it may be difficult to imagine, at one point Amazon only sold books. While this may be common knowledge, let that sink in. When the company filed to go public in 1997 it had 267 employees, a far cry from the 798,000 it has today. But the signs of mega-growth were already there. In 1996, Amazon grew its revenue from $511,000 to $15.75 million, or about 2,982 percent. Now the company is worth $314.9 billion, with revenue streams that extend well beyond books and ecommerce, including web services, subscription services, and more. This has allowed the company to stretch and invest in areas Besos likely never imagined in 1997, including space travel and, of course, healthcare.

Even before the pandemic, the Amazon Care pilot launched in Seattle in 2019. This year, the company announced that the platform will now be available in all 50 states. And, as recently reported in MedTech Dive, Amazon’s at-home COVID test, which was first developed just for employees, will now be available to the public. The test consists of a self-administered nasal swab and a website where people can receive their results.

Apple Unveils New Health Features aimed at Patient-Doctor Data Exchange

Like Amazon, over the years Apple has expanded its services beyond its initial scope. In a 2006 interview with NPR, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said that when he built the first Apple computer “it wasn’t really to show the world [that] here is the direction [it] should go [in]. It was to really show the people around me, to boast, to be clever, to get acknowledgement for having designed a very inexpensive computer.” But Steve Jobs saw the brilliance in his work, and many decades later Apple is responsible  not only for the design of the computers we use, but that of our screen-based phones and other technologies, including wearables.

And as any Apple Watch user knows, the technology on your wrist gathers an immense amount of health data, including heart rate, movement, and exercise. Now Apple has announced new features on its devices, “including a health record tool aimed at making it easier for users to share health information with their doctors and others.” And while the article notes that Apple’s technology was already compatible with electronic health records, new capabilities allow “loved ones or doctors, with patients’ permission, to review trends like sleep quality or blood glucose level, or receive notifications about anything out of the ordinary, like a sudden change in heart rate or a potential fall.” And while the alerts are not in real time, they will allow the individual’s chosen health network to track their health trends.

Why Medtech Founders Should Not Over-Focus on Dilution: Interview with Renee Ryan, CEO of Cala Health

The role of a medical device executive is one that requires immense creativity, adaptability, and focus, especially in the case of novel devices or a device that is entering a new market. Every technology and market is different, and when a company is blazing new trails, there is no clear guidebook to dictate how to navigate each step. Which is why reliable market intelligence coupled with gleaning the wisdom of those who have been in similar situations is critical in making informed decisions and building a successful product roadmap.

One perspective that is especially helpful to product executives and innovators is that of a former or current investor. Those individuals not only evaluate dozens of startup medical device companies each year, they are attuned to what makes or breaks businesses. Recently Medsider sat down with Renee Ryan, the CEO of Cala Health, a bioelectronic medicine company that is developing wearable neuromodulation therapies for individualized peripheral nerve stimulation. Having spent many years in investment and banking, she provides valuable insights for anyone who is bringing a medical device to fruition.

Battery-Free Smart Fabrics to Monitor Health

Over the past decade, wearable technology has gone from a gadgety novelty (remember Google Glass back in 2012?) to the mainstream. In fact, according to Statista, “the number of connected wearable devices worldwide has more than doubled in the space of three years, increasing from 325 million in 2016 to 722 million in 2019. The number of devices is forecast to reach more than one billion by 2022.” If at one point wearable technology felt unattainable, the tide has shifted, making wearables a natural part of our modern lives.

But for the most part, these devices are still made of metal, aluminum, and circuitry, often in the form of a watch or device that needs to be charged regularly. Until now. Researchers at Purdue have developed smart garments that can “harvest electrical power from nearby Wi-Fi networks and radio waves…this power can then be used to energize on-board electrical systems, including body monitors.” And it’s clear that the impact of this technology has inspired the imaginations of it’s developers. As Ramses Martinez, a researcher involved in the study, notes, “I envision smart clothes will be able to transmit information about the posture and motion of the wearer to mobile apps, allowing machines to understand human intent without the need of other interfaces, expanding the way we communicate, interact with devices, and play video games.”

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