Blood Oxygen Reader in Apple Watch is the Tech We Need This Pandemic. Meet the Doc Who Made it Happen


Blood Oxygen Reader in Apple Watch is the Tech We Need This Pandemic. Meet the Doc Who Made it Happen

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The latest Apple launch event went ahead as scheduled on September 15, despite parts of the world still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, and the major economic crisis that it has left in its wake. While our bank accounts will be grateful that no new phone launched at the event, Apple did announce the release of its Watch Series 6, and an 8th generation iPad for us to drool over. And the new Watch is definitely one to look out for, with the company saying it had included a feature that can measure a person’s blood oxygen levels in 15 seconds.

Behind this groundbreaking innovation is Dr Sumbul Ahmed Desai, the recently-appointed vice-president of health at Apple, and a woman with a CV longer than most people’s bucket lists.

Prior to revolutionising the Apple Watch’s new health features, Desai was the vice-chairperson of the Department of Medicine at the Stanford Centre for Digital Health. She has also been a Clinical Associate Professor at Stanford for over nine years, reports said.

Dr Desai, who also has a degree in computer science apart from her MD, has in the past worked at IBM, ABC and Disney, some of the biggest companies in the world.

While presenting a recent segment of the Apple Watch, Dr Desai explained how the new blood oximeter works, and how useful it is, especially in the times of the pandemic. The new feature can help manage conditions that affect the lungs and heart.

“If you think about your physician visits, part of the time is spent gathering data and part of the time is spent counselling and educating you,” the doctor told The Indian Express in an interview last year. Apple can now help capture the data, and give it to your physician in “a meaningful way,” a feature that she said would lead to “richer conversations with the doctor and allow for more time for counseling and education”.

Clearly the new feature is one that most of us would be glad to have, with the novel coronavirus still infecting thousands of patients across the world every day. Kudos to Dr Desai for making it happen.