One of the first employees recruited for Apple’s health team has left Apple to join the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dr. Andrew Trister joined Apple in 2016, shortly after it introduced Apple Watch. Since then, Apple has heavily piloted in the direction of health-tracking. Tim Cook has said Apple’s focus on health will be its, “greatest contribution to mankind.”
Trister was involved with a number of exciting, and potentially game-changing, projects at Apple. This included a feasibility study to see if mobile devices could be used to spot early signs of dementia. The abstract for the research noted that it explores: “a platform for remote and unobtrusive monitoring of symptoms related to cognitive impairment using several consumer-grade smart devices.”
At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Trister will take on a first-of-its-kind role. This involves focusing on digital health ventures which could make a global impact. CNBC says this will involve technology in the third world. A growing number of people in these markets have smartphones, although iPhone penetration is still low. Trister is supposedly interested in using smartphones for things like virtual consultations and low-cost diagnostic tools.
“We’re looking to help both consumers and community health workers globally, as we see smartphones playing an increasingly important role,” he said.
What does this mean for Apple’s Health efforts?
Apple’s Health team has lost a few key players in recent times. Last month, Anthem signed away several employees from Apple. Meanwhile, Robin Goldstein, who worked on health-related projects, left Apple to join self-driving car startup Zoox. Anil Sethi left Apple to start another health startup in 2018. That’s just to name a few.
I wouldn’t take this as any illustration that Apple’s health-related ambitions are dimming, however. This is now the most compelling aspect of the Apple Watch. More likely is that, as Apple has shown how big this market can be, others are eager to get a piece of it. That means that there’s plenty of competition for the services of those people leading the market.