Christina Farr and Mark Sullivan, Fast Company, August 22, 2016
Apple's ambitions in the health sector continue to expand, with its digital health team making its first known acquisition—personal health data startup Gliimpse, Fast Company has learned.
Silicon Valley-based Gliimpse has built a personal health data platform that enables any American to collect, personalize, and share a picture of their health data. The company was started in 2013 by Anil Sethi and Karthik Hariharan. Sethi is a serial entrepreneur who has spent the past decade working with health startups, after taking his company Sequoia Software public in 2000. He got his start as a systems engineer at Apple in the late 1980s.
The acquisition happened earlier this year, but Apple has been characteristically quiet about it. The company has now confirmed the purchase, saying: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."
According to Sethi's LinkedIn page, Gliimpse—like many startups—was born of a personal need. Sethi says that he's followed his sister through her battle with breast cancer and discovered firsthand how challenging it is to acquire and manage your personal health data. Sethi writes:
"As a consumer of healthcare, I leave behind a bread-crumb-trail of medical info wherever I’ve been seen. But, I'm unable to easily access or share my own data. Obamacare is one of several forcing functions federally mandating physicians and hospitals give us our data: meds, labs, allergies . . .you get the idea. However, there’s no single Electronic Health Record that all physicians use, sigh. Worse, there isn't even a common file format across a 1000+ systems."
The acquisition will bolster Apple’s efforts in digital health. In recent years, Apple has delved into the sector with a range of services (HealthKit, CareKit, and ResearchKit) that allow patients, clinicians, and researchers to access important health and wellness data via a range of mobile devices. That's in line with Gliimpse's mission of uniting disparate streams of health information.
What stands out about the deal is that Gliimpse is intended for patients with diseases like cancer and diabetes. Apple recently hired a top pediatric endocrinologist who developed a HealthKit app for teens with Type 1 diabetes, signaling an increased interest in applications for chronically ill users.
It's unlikely that this acquisition will bring Apple's health technologies under the purview of federal regulators. CEO Tim Cook recently told Fast Company in an interview that he sees a major business opportunity for the company in the non-regulated side of health care: "So if you don’t care about reimbursement, which we have the privilege of doing, that may even make the smartphone market look small."
It's hard to tell how Apple will use the technology—in previous cases, the technology it has acquired from another company often ends up looking very different when it finally makes it into a product.
So far, the acquisition has not been announced on LinkedIn, or on the company's website.