Apple teams with Color to offer free DNA tests to employees

Abdi Khalif, who works on analysis and growth, within the genomic testing lab at Color Genomics in Burlingame, Calif., March 19, 2018.

Jason Henry | The New York Times

Apple staff in Silicon Valley can now get free genetic screenings for illnesses from their on-site well being clinics, because of a pilot partnership with Color Genomics.

Apple, which just lately arrange devoted well being clinics often called “AC Wellness” for workers and their dependents close to its headquarters, has been working with Color for a number of months, in response to a number of individuals with direct information of the discussions. The individuals requested anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to publicize the deal on their firms’ behalf.

The thought is to maneuver well being care at Apple’s clinics from reactive to proactive, as genetic exams can supply a window into well being dangers down the road. In some circumstances, sufferers can take preventative steps to cut back their chance of getting a illness.

By providing cutting-edge medical remedies like genetic testing, AC Wellness may also help Apple recruit and retain proficient staff. In addition, though AC Wellness is technically a separate firm from Apple, medical consultants have speculated that it might assist Apple quietly test new products or ideas without risking leaks. So the group’s partnership with Color might point out Apple’s broader curiosity within the house.

Apple has publicly acknowledged its interest in health and is shifting ahead with a variety of efforts, including its health and fitness-tracking Apple Watch, its clinical research apps in partnership with tutorial medical facilities and its partnership with the health insurer Aetna. Thus far, it has taken solely tentative steps into genetics by way of a move to bring genetic data into ResearchKit, its software program that makes it simpler for educational researchers to make use of the iPhone for medical research.

AC Wellness, which got its start in early 2018, has already opened a number of medical facilities on the Apple Park campus, and in Santa Clara, a number of miles north of Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters. The objective is to carry the “world’s best health care experience” to staff, according to its website. Its clinicians and well being coaches are not employed by Apple, however they deal with solely Apple staff and their dependents. The administrative a part of the enterprise, which orders provides and manages the medical software program, is run by way of a separate authorized subsidiary of Apple to adjust to laws that make sure that employers haven’t got direct entry to staff’ most delicate well being data.

DNA testing with a physician’s approval

Color’s take a look at analyzes gene mutations which might be recognized to be related to most cancers and heart problems, in addition to ancestry data.

Color would not promote its take a look at on to customers, not like its rivals Ancestry and 23andMe. Instead, clinicians at AC Wellness should prescribe the Color take a look at to Apple staff and supply follow-up consults after they get their outcomes. Color permits docs to suggest the entire take a look at or particular elements of it, relying on components just like the sufferers’ medical historical past.

Apple is not the one firm to associate with Color for worker testing. For occasion, Jefferson Health, a hospital chain in better Philadelphia and New Jersey, is also working with Color to supply free genetic exams to its 30,000 staff.

But most of those offers are supplied by way of human sources and advantages groups, that means staff would usually entry these exams by way of their very own docs, fairly than their firm’s on-site main care group.

By providing the exams by way of the docs at AC Wellness, Apple staff is perhaps extra inclined to study their DNA than most.

Studies are finding that many main care docs within the U.S. are unwilling or unable to speak with their sufferers about the good thing about getting a genetic take a look at, and many do not really feel assured speaking by way of their outcomes. That will be off-putting to some sufferers who method their docs to inquire about genetics.

“It’s really exciting that to see companies move to preserve health, rather than just treating patients when they’re ill,” mentioned Dr. Robert Green, a medical geneticist at Harvard Medical School and a co-founder of a genetics firm referred to as Genome Medical.

Dr. Green has conducted research on how main care docs are speaking to sufferers about gene sequencing companies. “We’ve seen that there’s a huge gap between the recommendations around genetic testing, and what primary care clinicians are telling their patients,” he defined.

Apple is not the one know-how firm organising well being clinics to deal with their staff. Amazon recently launched a digital medical clinic referred to as Amazon Care to its staff within the Seattle space, nevertheless it has not disclosed whether or not it’s providing genetic exams.

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