Apple reportedly planned to open its own primary healthcare clinics and employ doctors in a project codenamed 'Casper,' which stalled because key people quit

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Apple reportedly planned to open its own primary healthcare clinics and employ doctors in a project codenamed 'Casper,' which stalled because key people quit
Apple CEO Tim Cook.Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • In 2016, Apple launched a plan, codenamed Casper, to offer primary-care medicine, the WSJ reported.
  • In Casper, which is making little progress, Apple wanted to open clinics and employ doctors, sources said.
  • Multiple people reportedly quit the project, and Apple is instead focusing on devices like its watch.

Apple has spent years trying to push into healthcare, including by launching its own clinics and employing doctors - but these plans have mostly stalled, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal.

Apple launched a primary-care medicine project in 2016, codenamed Casper, The Journal reported, citing documents and people familiar with the plan.

Apple planned to offer primary healthcare at its own clinics staffed by Apple-employed doctors, according to the people.

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In 2017 it hired Dr. Sumbul Desai from Stanford University as its vice president of health to run the effort.

The company is still working on the project but has struggled to move past a preliminary stage, they said. This is partly because multiple people have quit the project, The Journal reported.

Sources told the publication that Desai's unit discouraged critical feedback, and that some staff had concerns that internal data showing the performance of trial clinics was inaccurate or compiled haphazardly.

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An Apple spokesperson told The Journal that data integrity was at the foundation of the company's innovations. The spokesperson said that the company was still in the early phases of its healthcare work, and said that data from Apple's devices was being used for research that could potentially improve care.

"Many of the assertions in this report are based on incomplete, outdated, and inaccurate information," they added.

Insider asked Apple for more detail, but did not immediately receive a response.

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Read more: Amazon is weighing a push into physical pharmacies to grab a bigger slice of the $370 billion prescription market

Apple built a huge team of clinicians, engineers, and product designers to work on its healthcare projects, The Journal reported. Alongside Casper, the company also launched a digital health app earlier this year but has struggled to keep users engaged, sources said.

Apple spent months looking into how it could use health and wellness data from Apple Watch users to improve healthcare, the sources told The Journal. Under the plan, this would have been linked with both virtual and in-person care, they said, meaning that Apple would offer both primary care and continuous health monitoring.

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Apple planned to offer a subscription-based personalized health program, The Journal reported, citing both documents and people familiar with the plan.

Apple first tested out the service on its own employees by taking over employee health clinics near its headquarters, sources told the publication.

Apple would have considered franchising the model to health systems and other countries if it could prove it was improving people's health and lowering healthcare costs, according to documents seen by The Journal.

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People familiar with the plans said that the tech giant was now focusing its health unit on selling devices such as the Apple Watch. It debuted a new $400 Apple Watch in September that measures blood oxygen levels and heart rhythms.

Other tech giants have tried to branch into the booming healthcare industry, too - many with limited success, as Insider's Allana Akhtar reported.

Google Health has struggled to define its mission and figure out how to make money. There was also public backlash and a US probe into its first major partnership with health system Ascension over privacy concerns.

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Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway also disbanded their joint healthcare venture, Haven, in February after it struggled to come up with ideas and lost both financial backing and key leaders.

But Amazon is making other, more successful forays into healthcare. It launched Amazon Pharmacy in November, which sends customers their prescription medicine with no delivery fee, and is developing a way to connect workers at other companies with primary care specialists for online and in-person visits, dubbed Amazon Care.

Microsoft recently bought AI firm Nuance for $19.7 billion to bolster up its healthcare unit - its second-largest acquisition ever.

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