Apple hosted its first health-focused event at its Union Square store in San Francisco on Monday evening. It started with a panel on the topic of heart health and ended with an walk around the block to demonstrate the activity features on the Apple Watch.
Apple has not previously hosted any dedicated health events at its Apple Stores, but it has scheduled three this month, including in Chicago and New York. The events are in support of Heart Month, as heart health is a big area of focus for the Apple Watch, which includes an optical sensor to measure the user's heart rate and (in the new version) an electrocardiogram to measure the heart's rhythm.
These events are yet another signal that the company is positioning health care is key to its future. Its executives have said as much, with the Tim Cook noting to CNBC's Jim Cramer that health will be the company's "greatest contribution to mankind." As it scales back in other departments, like self-driving cars, the company is growing its team and making some big investments in health.
The company's CEO Tim Cook even tweeted about the event on Tuesday:
At the event, Apple Health's Sumbul Desai spoke alongside the celebrity fitness trainer Jeanette Jenkins and the American Heart Association's president-elect Robert Harrington. Apple's Julz Arny, who works on special projects for fitness at Apple, moderated the session.
Here were a few of the highlights:
- Apple vice president Sumbul Desai shared a few of her reasons for joining Apple from Stanford, where she worked as a physician and digital health executive director: "I went to medical school to have an impact and now I have the opportunity to be able to do that at scale," she said.
- Desai, alongside Harrington from the American Heart Association, revealed they plan to release the results of the Apple Heart Study at the American College of Cardiology meetings on March 16. The study, which enrolled more than 400,000 people, is designed to research whether the Apple Watch can pick up a heart rhythmic disorder called atrial fibrillation.
- Also on the topic of the Apple Heart Study, Harrington made a few interesting points on what he hopes to find. He noted that the medical field still doesn't know the incidence of atrial fibrillation, a condition that puts people at risk for strokes, in a population. It's uncommon for such a large population of people to be studied, as most clinical research is limited to a few thousand people.
- Apple's Desai added that the study is also looking at behavior, and not just population health trends. She noted that the findings might also reveal how doctors manage this new information, gleaned via an Apple Watch, and how consumers are responding to it.
- Both the Apple employees talked about how they'll take time to read the health-related letters that Apple users send in to the company's CEO Tim Cook. "It drives the work we do at Apple,"
As the event broke up, everyone walked around the block with Jenkins, the famous fitness trainer. A few people cheered when they closed their rings, and then dispersed.