While Apple has publicly expressed its desire to grow within the healthcare industry, a new report from Insider today says that efforts are “faltering” internally. The report, which is based on “conversations with 11 current and former Apple employees and the review of dozens of documents,” claims that Apple’s healthcare leaders “suppress concerns and mislead executives.”
Apple currently has “several hundred engineers, program managers, data scientists, desires, and physicians” working on health-related projects, the report says. The efforts are being overseen by COO Jeff Williams, as has previously been reported. Williams reports directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The report says that some employees have faced “retribution for disagreeing with superiors.”
People at Apple Health said that they saw colleagues face retribution for disagreeing with superiors and that concerns have been expressed on more than one occasion about the way health data is used to develop products. The situation has gotten so serious that some employees have lodged complaints with Apple’s most senior executives, including Cook and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who oversees the health effort.
The report cites a specific situation in which Dr. Will Poe, who was working at Apple’s Health group, sent a “fiery” resignation letter directly to Cook. Poe alleged that employees on the Health team were misleading Williams about the state of the efforts.
The email, written by Dr. Will Poe, was a resignation letter. And multiple people who saw and heard about it said it was a bombshell that laid out, in blistering terms, why employees in Apple’s Health group were unable to do meaningful work. He said that there was a lack of strategy and that Health leadership blocked efforts to provide direction. People with concerns are fired or dismissed, he said, according to the people.
One of his chief concerns was that the members of the team in charge of the health centers were telling Williams that the patient care they provided was “high quality.” But at that time, Apple wasn’t measuring quality in the clinics with standardized metrics, some of the people said, and it was rounding up results from patient-satisfaction surveys in reviews.
Poe shared his concerns with colleagues and soon found himself uninvited from meetings and criticized by leaders at Apple for his lack of trust, according to three people. Multiple employees sent similar emails and resignation letters to Cook and Williams from 2019 to 2021, per documents and screenshots seen by Insider. Williams hosted a roundtable to solicit feedback from the division. But beyond that, it’s not clear how seriously Cook and Williams have taken the complaints.
This also extended to the “product side of Health,” according to the report, with those working on tools to measure blood-oxygen levels and detect irregular heart rhythms feeling pressure to “misrepresent progress” to Williams.
Apple denied many of the claims made in the article through spokesperson Fred Sainz, its senior director of corporate communications. Sainz told Insider that Apple is in the “early innings of our work in health technology” and that claims in the story “are based on incomplete, outdated, and inaccurate information.”
Sainz also stated that that “any and all allegations of retaliatory behavior are investigated thoroughly and handled with appropriate corrective actions.”
As for allegations that Apple was altering data from health surveys, Sainz said that “data integrity isn’t just part of our process – it’s the foundation every innovation is built on. Using inaccurate data would only hurt the teams across Apple who rely on it, and hurt the quality of the user experience.”
Finally, Sainz – as well as some Apple employees – stated that Apple’s current VP of Health, Sumbul Desai, makes every attempt to create a “transparent environment” for employees.
“All health leaders encourage employees to always do what’s right, speak up and raise questions,” Sainz said. Desai has tried to create a more transparent environment, one former employee said, and asks managers in Health to encourage feedback, another former employee said.
“Since her arrival at Apple, Dr. Desai has been an instrumental part of the many features that we have launched, and a strong collaborator as everything at Apple is done across multiple teams and requires close teamwork,” Sainz said, adding that Apple was proud to employ Desai.
The full report at Insider is well worth a read and can be found here. The report comes as Tim Cook has publicly said that Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind” will be something health-related.