Apple and others may be in the early stages of grabbing significant chunks of healthcare IT spending, but the opportunities in that segment are immense. BlackBerry is trying to get back into the game by focusing on enterprise customers, even putting out industry-specific apps.
One area in which the company is trying to grab a large chunk of the market is healthcare, but Apple is a formidable opponent with the potential to squash BlackBerry’s efforts before they really get started. So will Apple triumph over BlackBerry again, or does BlackBerry really have a shot at owning the connected healthcare market?
Apple aims to disrupt the healthcare market
In a report dated Jan. 12, 2015, UBS analysts Steven Milunovich and Peter Christiansen said the healthcare industry is “ripe” for technological disruption. Apple unveiled its HealthKit API last year. The UBS team thinks health apps offer differentiation in the areas of brand and devices in the next several years.
Of course Apple and other companies looking to put out apps or devices for the healthcare industry will have to get past the Food and Drug Administration to get them into widespread use in the industry.
A doctor speculates about wearable tech
In an article in The New York Times, Dr. Eric Topol offered some suggestions of how Apple and other technology companies can disrupt the healthcare industry. He said it could one day be commonplace for people to wear watches or even necklaces that continually monitor their heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs.
He also sees the possibility of headbands that could track brain waves and said apps offering do-it-yourself diagnoses are currently under development. Some of the health problems these apps may be able to detect include ear infections, eye problems, lung problems and others.
The cardiologist even sees the potential for these apps and smartphones being able to run lab tests on blood, urine and other bodily fluids. Then patients could follow up with their healthcare providers through video consultations.
Apple continues to strengthen iOS ecosystem
The UBS analysts say as Apple’s HealthKit becomes the basis for more and more gadgets and apps, the primary benefit to the company is to its ecosystem. They point out that there are plenty of monetization opportunities in the healthcare space, such as through the Apple Watch, but they still think Apple most benefits from the differentiation of its devices.
The analysts call this the “Apple sphere,” while CEO Tim Cook refers to iOS as their “mega-ecosystem.” UBS maintained its Buy rating and $125 per share price target on Apple.
BlackBerry touts security
With all Apple is doing in its quest to change the healthcare industry, BlackBerry is doing plenty as well. From specialized apps to its partnership with NantHealth, the company is really striving to carve out a niche for itself here. It’s anyone’s guess right now whether BlackBerry will be successful in keeping the lion’s share of this niche away from Apple. It’s actually starting to look like the struggling company has a chance.
One thing BlackBerry certainly has going for it in the fight against Apple is security. The iCloud hacking incident certainly didn’t help Apple at all, and BlackBerry CEO John Chen said something like that would never happen to their system. Unfortunately the comments he made represent a huge risk to BlackBerry because if a similar hack does happen, Apple will undoubtedly be quick to poke fun, and Chen will be forced to eat his words. Obviously in an area like healthcare, security is everything.
BlackBerry’s approach is different than Apple’s
Another reason BlackBerry may have a chance against Apple is because it is taking a different approach. Apple is targeting consumers with gadgets, which fits with the company’s business model. BlackBerry’s business model, however, focuses on enterprise customers. The company’s goal is to have doctors pulling up X-rays and other information on their BlackBerry phones. The company also wants to get its operating system into hospitals and make it the new standard. All in all, this approach is solid.
Apple was said to be in talks with hospitals about using its HealthKit as well, but the fact is that the gadgets and apps built on the API seem to be primarily consumer-focused, at least for now. Last year a doctor raised concerns about Apple’s approach, emphasizing that a doctor’s expertise is still needed. Consumers who rely too much on the data from their gadgets may be putting their health at risk if they don’t consult a doctor.
So while Apple may have consumers in its corner, BlackBerry has a good shot at getting healthcare workers in its corner. If BlackBerry is successful, the healthcare niche could turn out to be just the mother-lode the company needs to survive.