Over the last couple of years, the very mention of the word “apple” first draws up a sleek, white, bitten-off reflection of the fruit rather than the red and juicy illustration of it. That’s precisely how popular the company Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has grown to be.
Planted way back in 1976, Apple has revolutionized the way the world looks at computing. Today, this consumer electronics company is set to alter the face of the healthcare industry with its latest fruit – the Apple Watch – ripe to be plucked.
Apple’s smartwatch, announced in Sep 2014 and made available for pre-order on Apr 10, 2015, is already anticipated to be seen on more than 2.3 million wrists, once shipping begins on Apr 24. Interestingly, this translates to more sales than that recorded by all Android smartwatch manufacturers in 2014.
Until now, the smartwatch was seen as a niche product appealing only to hardcore tech users and calorie-counting fitness buffs. However, thanks in large part to the positive reception of the Apple Watch, one can be sure that the company’s latest device will make smartwatches mainstream.
As this technology becomes more commonplace in the world of consumer electronics, it will also make inroads into the medical world, where it has a lot to offer.
Healthcare Getting Smarter
Healthcare, often viewed as an industry that is slow to adopt the latest technology, is actually standing on the threshold of transformative change. Currently valued at $2.9 trillion, the U.S. healthcare industry is more concerned than ever about monitoring a patient’s health outside the walls of the hospital through intelligently connected devices.
A number of technology companies are releasing wearable devices that can double as health trackers. From headsets that measure brainwaves to clothes that incorporate sensing devices to smartwatches that allow fitness tracking, personal health monitoring is the wave of the future.
In the medical world, where pagers and landline phones are still widely used by doctors to coordinate care, an effective wrist-based communication tool allows for continuous monitoring of a patient’s health. The use of smartwatches in healthcare communication, in particular, has the potential to improve the speed and quality of care delivery.
While the monitoring of activity, sleep cycles, pulse rate and other physiological parameters has become state of the art in today’s smartwatches, the latest devices have a dozen other applications that can not only help people to keep fit, but in extreme cases to stay alive.
Specific applications designed for select groups like heart patients, diabetic patients and epileptic patients can actually be used by doctors to continuously track the patient’s health vitals, flagging clinicians when signs fall below normal, thus allowing them to adjust treatments accordingly and deliver better patient outcomes.
A Bite into the Apple Watch
Apple Watch, which pairs with the users’ iPhones via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, is being endorsed as a comprehensive health and fitness device. While it allows users to send and receive text messages, speak into the phone to search content and answer calls, health monitoring is actually believed to be a major feature of the watch.
From collecting data in new ways to helping hospitals reduce costly emergency room visits, the potential of Apple’s smartwatch in healthcare is something that cannot be ignored.
Although reception to smart watches from device makers like Samsung and Sony has been tepid, healthcare companies are not the ones to dismiss a new offering from Apple as it brings with it a new level of technological power, not to mention brand appeal.
To tap the power of Apple’s latest device, a number of healthcare companies are seen developing and announcing a plethora of medical apps for the Apple Watch platform. We believe that Apple will, in fact, need the support of these app developers, health care companies and medical technology companies to create the functions to give people a reason to want to wear a computer around their wrist all the time.
By way of this rationale, as the Apple Watch begins to shine on people’s wrists, it will throw some spotlight on the healthcare industry as a whole.
3 Healthcare Stocks in Focus
As healthcare stands to greatly benefit from the adoption of smartwatches, we feel the time is ripe for investors to enter the arena and ride the approaching wave of growth.
Several health and health care companies came out to show off their new Apple Watch apps at the 2015 Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference held at Chicago this month. While all the apps need to prove their worth in order to reserve a spot on the tiny wrist-based screen, we believe that the Apple Watch apps of the following three companies stand a good chance to do so.
A favorable Zacks Rank and an impressive Growth Score (for explanation, please see our style score system) lend additional credence to the growth prospects of these companies:
Developer of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems, DexCom, Inc. (NASDAQ:DXCM) has made its G4 PLATINUM CGM System with Share app available on the Apple Watch.
Being among the first in the category to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, DexCom’s app will allow diabetic patients to track their blood glucose statistics right from their wrist. The app will also allow them to share this information with caregivers, parents, doctors, or other authorized individuals and send an alert when the glucose levels are beyond the normal range.
Flaunting a Growth Score of ‘A,’ DexCom has seen solid activity on the earnings estimate revision front as well, suggesting that analysts are gaining more confidence on its prospects in both the short and the long term. Over the past 60 days, estimates for the current year have doubled from a penny to 2 cents a share, while for the next year it has improved 9.5% to 46 cents a share.
Currently, DexCom carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
One of the leading providers of cloud-based services and electronic health records (EHR) for hospitals and clinics, athenahealth, Inc (NASDAQ:ATHN) introduced a new care coordination and communication Apple Watch app – AthenaText.
The app is designed to help providers quickly locate and communicate with other members of a patient’s care team and support staff. The AthenaText app can sync care coordination activities and information across multiple devices so that the patient record is always up to date. Providers will also be able to refer a patient across town, request a peer consult, or ask for a specialist’s recommendation. While the initial version of the app will provide read-only capabilities, athenahealth is expected to add interactive capabilities in June.
Currently, athenahealth sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and a Growth Score of ‘B’. Moreover, the firm has also been enjoying positive estimate revisions over the past month which has caused the Zacks Consensus Estimate to climb 4.5% to its current level of 23 cents a share for the current year and 2.2% to its current level of 46 cents per share for fiscal 2016.
Healthcare information technology company, Cerner Corporation (NASDAQ:CERN), launched its patient engagement app – HealtheLife – on the Apple Watch.
The app, designed with push notification reminders to track health data and a display dashboard for tracked metrics, will help patients manage their own health, thus building a healthier community. With patients’ consent, the data will be sent directly to the Cerner Millennium EHR which will help providers focus on personalized patient care and population health management.
Cerner’s population health management and care coordination offerings are important growth catalysts for the company. We believe that an expansion of such services will enhance the company’s visibility, which, in turn, will drive top-line growth.
Moreover, it is worth mentioning that Cerner, holding a Zacks Rank #3 and a Growth Score of ’B,’ has an expected long-term earnings growth of 17.3%, higher than the industry growth of 16.8%.