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New Apple Watch Features to Focus on Digital Health

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Apple (AAPL) has partnered with drug manufacturing company Eli Lily (LLY) to research whether the iPhone and Apple Watch can identify Alzheimer’s and dementia among users. The two companies are working in collaboration with health tech start-up Evidation. The results of their 12-week study are set to be discussed today at a conference in Alaska.

In an interview with CNBC, Evidation co-founder Christine Lemke stated, “With this research, we looked at how everyday behavior data, such as those captured by iPhones, Apple Watches, and Beddit sleep monitors, may be effective in differentiating between individuals with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s disease, and those without symptoms.”

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Over 5 million people have dementia in the US, and this number is expected to rise to 13.9 million by 2060. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer’s is the fifth most common cause of death for US citizens aged 65 and older. The global medical community has faced challenges in detecting dementia early.

As Apple’s research is still in its early stages, we can’t draw any conclusions. It will be interesting to see if its devices could identify the early onset of cognitive illnesses. However, they have yet to be backed by the medical community and certified as health-tracking products.

Apple expanding its reach in digital health

Apple may be looking to increase its digital health investments. The Apple Watch already monitors several health metrics such as heart rate. Could some of its new features focus on health tracking?

Global Market Insights forecasts that the global digital health market will be worth over $504.4 billion by 2025. With the demand for remote monitoring services expected to drive digital health, Apple may seek to gain traction in the market.

Peer smartwatch manufacturer Fitbit is also investing in its Health Solutions service, offering users a personalized experience. Through its service, they can track their daily data to reach health goals. Fitbit is set to bundle its devices with this premium service in the upcoming months. In the first half of this year, Fitbit’s Health Solutions sales grew 42.0%.

The digital health space has not gained significant user confidence. While customers use devices to track their daily activity, they seem hesitant to use them for diagnosis. The medical industry will surely be watching the space going forward.

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