By Malcolm Owen
Tuesday, August 20, 2019, 09:37 am PT (12:37 pm ET)
Changes in leadership and internal conflict over the future of Apple Health has led to a number of employees to leave the company, a report claims, with the team apparently at odds over catering towards average healthy users or to major healthcare subjects.
A rise in tensions in the Health team over the last few months have led to some employees to become wary of the group’s working culture, people familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak on behalf of Apple advised to CNBC. While healthcare is still a strategic priority for Apple, it seems the team working in that field may be struggling to deal with its internal problems.
Some employees are thought to be doing well, but others are apparently unhappy with their work, feeling “sidelined and unable to move their ideas forward.” Four of eight people spoken to by the report said some employees were hoping to work on bigger healthcare challenges, including telemedicine, health payments, and medical devices, but instead found they had to work on features for already healthy users.
Instead of taking on more ambitious projects, the people said Apple confined its products and services to wellness and prevention, such as exercise, meditation, and sleep, a less risky and less regulated area than medical applications, which cater towards diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The latter is also where the bulk of the US healthcare expenditure is, with almost 90% of costs associated with chronic diseases.
An employee morale survey allegedly showed signs of discontent, according to two people, prompting COO Jeff Williams to speak to the team about the unrest, and to determine what caused it, as well as reaffirming his commitment to the group. Williams was a pivotal figure of the Apple Watch’s development, and urged the Watch team to explore healthcare in 2016.
Disagreements ranged from untackled initiatives, such as telemedicine, to doing more with Beddit, to whether AC Wellness health clinics should expand into medical software for clinicians.
Transparency with work in the medical industry and ways Apple introduces health products, such as the pushback over the electrocardiogram feature of the Apple Watch, were also cited as issues.
It is unclear how many employees have departed from the Health team so far, and it is also unknown how the rate of leavers compares to other Apple groups. Notable departures include eight-year employee Christine Eun in August, Apple subsidiary AC Wellness team member Brian Ellis who moved to Apple Music in June, and Matt Krey who left the company in May.