“Apple plans to open healthcare clinics for its Cupertino employees and their families that will rely heavily on its technology,” Todd Campbell writes for The Motley Fool. “The decision reflects Apple’s commitment to leveraging its ecosystem to revolutionize this $3.3 trillion dollar market. Could Apple become your primary care provider?”

In this episode of The Motley Fool’s Industry Focus: Healthcare, analyst Kristine Harjes is joined by contributor Todd Campbell to discuss Apple’s plan and what it may mean for shareholders:

Campbell: The lines are blurring, Kristine. The lines are blurring. Technology and Healthcare, I think we’re definitely going to be talking more and more about how we’re going to be using technology to try to improve the healthcare system. You and I did the show recently talking about how Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan formed a consortium to try to figure out how to drive down healthcare costs. I think Apple’s latest move to create healthcare clinics for their own employees shows that private companies are very interested in figuring out whether or not they can do healthcare better. And obviously, there’s a major need, Kristine, because we spend so much money on healthcare every year.

Harjes: Yeah, a lot of these major tech companies have so many employees that it ends up being a fairly large expense item just to take care of them. Studies report that health problems result in 69 million workers reporting missed days each year, and that reduces economic output by $260 billion. So, this is just one more indication, this Apple initiative, that the large tech players have skin in this game and they want to throw some of their brains and some of their financial muscle around to try to cut down on those expenses, and give people a better experience, too.

When you look at what Apple is trying to do with these wellness centers, it’s not just dispensing drugs, it’s not just going in for a regular checkup. It really does seem, from early indications, which would be the website that they’ve propped up and some of the job postings that they’ve announced that they’re looking for people to fill, it’s more comprehensive than that. They’re looking for people who can do population health management, and people who can design lifestyle plans for these Apple employees and their dependents, in order to have a more holistic view of wellness.

Campbell: And that dovetails very nicely into what we’ve seen out of Apple in the course of the last couple of years, talking about their plans for healthcare. Obviously, they have the Healthcare app, and they’re trying to get more and more people to figure out new ways to use their ecosystem to create healthy lifestyle type solutions. They’re also internally spearheading all sorts of things. We’ve talked in the past about what they’re trying to do with wearables, the Apple Watch, being able to use that, use the heart study in December that they announced, use that to try to ferret out whether or not you might be at risk of an atrial fibrillation. Last year, we also heard Tim Cook say that he was experimenting with an Apple Watch to track his blood glucose levels. Clearly, Apple believes that technology can contribute to improving preventive medicine. Given the fact that we spend $3.3 trillion a year on healthcare, anything that can reduce healthcare costs, such as preventative medicine, would be a welcome advance.

Full transcript or, if you prefer, the audio of the discussion here.

MacDailyNews Take: One thing to keep in mind is that Apple likes to test things out on employees before delivering them to general public.

One of the biggest issues in healthcare in the U.S. today is that there is no “Quarterback” – someone running the effort, coordinating the various specialists, making sure everyone is on the same page with the treatment plan(s), drug interactions, allergies, etc. A “playbook” showing the full picture of the patient’s health data would be very useful – and let the disparate medical personnel each quarterback on their own. Hopefully, Apple can step in, build, and fulfill this need with the company’s vaunted security and privacy.MacDailyNews, August 22, 2016

Obviously the health insurance system in the United States of America is FUBAR and an unspeakably massive drag on the economy overall.

The basic problem is that the prices of healthcare are not defined. They are elastic. What else do you buy without seeing the price upfront? Without knowing the hourly rate upfront? Or the cost of typical procedures? You go to a garage and it says on a board the labor cost per hour. It shows the cost of an oil change, brake services, a tune-up, etc. You go into Target and the price is on the product. You can compare that price with Amazon’s and Walfart’s and then decide where to buy. Not so with medical services, tests, and procedures.

Ever wonder why a new doctor asks what your insurance plan is upfront? It’s not just to determine that you have insurance, it also determines how much you’ll pay. The prices change based on the insurance company/plan. Ever wonder why, when you have “good insurance,” the doctor’s office seems excited to hear it? Or how well you’re treated over others with lesser (read: less profitable) insurance companies/plans? They want to keep you happy. You’re a high-value patient. If you’ve ever gone from crappy insurance to good insurance or vice versa, you know what we mean.

Until the medical costs are displayed upfront and everybody is charged that rate, regardless of their plan, this mess will continue. You can’t have real competition that drives down costs until the actual costs are clearly known by all parties and uniform per person regardless of their insurance or even lack thereof.MacDailyNews, March 7, 2017

The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs developed pancreatic cancer in 2004. He then spent a great deal of time with doctors and the healthcare system until his death in 2011. While that personal health journey had a great impact on Jobs personally, it turns out that it affected Apple’s top management, too. During this time, Jobs discovered how disjointed the healthcare system can be. He took on the task of trying to bring some digital order to various aspects of the healthcare system, especially the connection between patients, their data, and their healthcare providers…

I have long been observing these key moves around healthcare, which accelerated after Jobs’ death. It seems clear that Apple’s management has now and will continue to have a major focus on bridging the gap between a person and their healthcare providers. I believe Apple is on a mission to improve the overall health of its customers as well as that of the healthcare system, a task Jobs gave them before he died. And while Apple’s products define Jobs’ legacy, it may turn out that his and Apple’s greatest contribution may be to bring greater order to the fragmented healthcare world.

It is within this backdrop that the Apple Watch was born.Tim Bajarin, TIME Magazine, May 09, 2016

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Tim Cook: Apple can make a ‘significant contribution’ in health care – February 13, 2018
Apple aims to revolutionize healthcare – for free – February 6, 2018
Apple will finally replace the fax machine in health care – January 30, 2018
Why Apple is positioned to win the electronic medical record game with Health Records in iOS 11.3 – January 25, 2018
Apple announces effortless solution bringing health records to iPhone – January 24, 2018
Apple working with a start-up ‘Health Gorilla’ in secretive personal health record initiative – October 20, 2017
Apple’s healthcare plans under the microscope: From iPhone apps to Apple Watch and what comes next – October 4, 2017
Apple granted U.S. patent for iPhone that measures and analyzes health data – August 8, 2017
Apple working with start-up on iPhone Electronic Health Records plan – June 19, 2017
Apple’s profound iPhone plans for healthcare – June 15, 2017
Apple acquires Gliimpse – August 22, 2016
Apple rehires Flipboard co-founder Evan Doll to develop health software – August 12, 2016
Apple working on all-new, advanced health-tracking hardware; years in the making – August 9, 2016
The real reason why Apple made the Apple Watch – May 09, 2016
Tim Cook hints Apple might build a health device – November 10, 2015
Apple’s Tim Cook declares the end of the PC and hints at new medical product – November 10, 2015
Apple announces new ResearchKit studies for autism, epilepsy and melanoma – October 15, 2015
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ResearchKit, Apple’s medical data experiment, explained – May 20, 2015
Apple announces ResearchKit available today to medical researchers – April 14, 2015
Why Apple’s ResearchKit signals a golden age for health care – March 28, 2015
ResearchKit: The inside story of how Apple’s revolutionary medical research platform was born – March 19, 2015
Apple’s open source ResearchKit will change the world for the better – March 9, 2015
Apple debuts ResearchKit, giving medical researchers the tools to revolutionize medical studies – March 9, 2015