Tech giants Apple and IBM are launching a program to put iPads with health care applications in the hands of millions of seniors, as part of a large-scale effort to enable aging people to remain in their homes as long as possible.
The initiative is rolling out first in Japan, through a partnership with Japan Post Group, the companies announced last Thursday. Japan Post not only has 24,000 post offices in Japan, it is the country’s largest health and life insurance company and has existing financial relationships with nearly every Japanese citizen, according to a press release issued by IBM.
The plan is to give iPads to between 4 and 5 million seniors in Japan by 2020 and train them in how to use IBM-developed apps on the tablets. By helping users manage medications, stay in touch with family and friends, and even access home handyman services, the iPads should help keep seniors health and living at home longer, the companies said.
“This initiative has potential for global impact, as many countries face the challenge of supporting an aging population, and we are honored to be involved in supporting Japan’s senior citizens and helping enrich their lives,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in a written statement.
Cook said that Apple and IBM likely would have to assemble a variety of health care partners should the initiative spread to the United States, since no single entity matches the reach of Japan Post, according to CNET.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Japan Post CEO Taizo Nishimuro joined Cook in announcing the project in New York City.
The Japanese seniors will not have to pay for the iPads, but there might be some fee associated with the project, Forbes reported. Japan Post’s insurance business stands to benefit if its beneficiaries remain healthier longer.
For Apple and IBM, the plan is part of a larger strategy. Last year, the companies forged a partnership to expand their reach in the business world, under which IBM agreed to develop enterprise-specifc apps for Apple’s iOS platform. Health care, banking, transportation and insurance are among the industries targeted.
There are various potential roadblocks to implementing a similar project in the United States, Forbes’ Matthew Herper wrote. For instance, few if any health care companies enjoy the level of consumer trust that Japan Post does, so U.S. seniors might balk at an insurer having access to all the data generated by the iPad apps.
Still, iPads already are making their way into senior care settings, increasing socialization and offering potentially “life changing” access to the Web, experts said during an SHN webcast earlier this year.
Written by Tim Mullaney