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Apple’s healthcare division leaned on misleading data, report alleges

Apple employees raising concerns that misleading data was used to support new health products were dismissed or met with hostility, Insider reported. In addition, a lack of structure within the health group, along with other organizational problems, is slowing and frustrating the company’s ambitions to push into healthcare, current and former Apple employees told Insider.

Some concerns focused on clinics Apple set up to both provide healthcare to employees and develop ways to integrate data collected from Apple devices into care. One doctor involved with the project, Will Poe, said in a resignation letter to CEO Tim Cook that he was concerned that members of the team were giving misleading and too-rosy information to Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who oversees the company’s health effort, former employees told Insider. Poe was concerned that team members told Williams that the clinics provided “high-quality” care, even though the quality of care wasn’t being measured in a standardized way, Insider reported.

Other employees raised similar concerns to Cook and Williams, Insider reported, but the company didn’t take any action. “The company does not want help. It is completely happy with the current status quo,” a former employee told Insider.

Apple claims that parts of the Insider story are based on “outdated” information. The company is still in the “early innings of our work in health technology,” Fred Sainz, a senior director of corporate communications for Apple, said in a statement to Insider.

A Wall Street Journal report from June also outlined issues with the internal health clinics and said that employees were concerned about the way data was collected and presented.

The Apple hardware team’s focus on creating apps and products for consumers, not for medicine, also complicated work by the health team to build a more robust primary care program through the internal clinics, Insider reported. The company began to think of the clinics and their work as a way to drive Apple Watch sales, rather than as their own project, people familiar with the approach told Insider.

Current and past employees told Insider there is no clear strategy for the health team and that internal culture doesn’t allow for feedback. One doctor working with the clinic’s team had her direct reports removed after speaking up about the clinic’s care and pushing back on Sumbul Desai, vice president of health at Apple and head of the project, in a meeting. A senior engineering program manager was fired soon after saying in a meeting that “some people in the organization preferred telling good stories over accurately representing the data,” former employees told Insider.

​“Any and all allegations of retaliatory behavior are investigated thoroughly and handled with appropriate corrective actions,” Sainz said in the statement to Insider. “All health leaders encourage employees to always do what’s right, speak up and raise questions.”

The revelations come as Apple’s overall culture is starting to shift, with more employees speaking out about the workplace and pushing for executives to take concerns seriously. “The overarching desire…is that employees want to feel heard,” Zoe Schiffer wrote in The Verge.