Apple has announced that Johnson & Johnson’s current CEO, Alex Gorsky, will join its board of directors. Gorsky’s move to Apple’s leadership team (he’ll step down from his role at J&J in January) comes at a time when the company is focusing even more on health and how it can make data more accessible to users and their doctors.
In the press release announcing Gorsky’s role at Apple, Tim Cook calls him “a visionary in healthcare” who has a “passion for technology.” Apple hasn’t kept its ambitions in health a secret — the Apple Watch is largely seen as a fitness device, and its users can contribute data to various studies. Recent updates to iOS and watchOS have brought new health features that make it easier to share medical records with doctors or family members. With Gorsky on the board, Apple could tap him for new feature ideas (such as what new sensors it could add to the Apple Watch) or use his expertise to add more integrations with the medical establishment.
Apple and Johnson & Johnson have existing ties — the two companies are working together on the Heartline study, which is designed to see if the Apple Watch can help detect atrial fibrillation before symptoms become obvious or dangerous.
Apple’s health efforts haven’t been without controversy, though. Some medical researchers have said that Apple’s lack of transparency into its algorithms to measure things like heart rate makes it difficult to use data from Apple Watches in research. There have also been reports from inside Apple that the health division uses potentially misleading data to make product decisions, and employees also raised concerns about Apple’s plans for a trial where it would act as a primary healthcare provider.
It’s possible that having someone with experience could help Apple navigate these potential hurdles and make the Apple Watch an even more powerful health tool (though Johnson & Johnson faced its fair share of controversies since Gorsky became CEO in 2012). It’s also possible that it’s more of a symbolic move to emphasize Apple’s focus on health — we’ll only be able to tell by seeing what Apple does with health in the future or if Grosky appears on stage at WWDC to talk about a collaboration between J&J and Apple.