Toronto doctor hired by Apple to work on health care messaging

A Toronto doctor has been hired by Apple Inc. after his YouTube videos caught the eye of the technology giant.
Dr. Mike Evans, formerly a staff physician at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, talks to Metro Morning host Matt Galloway about the future of health care. 0:43

A Toronto medical doctor has been hired by Apple Inc. to help chart the future of family medicine after his YouTube videos caught the eye of the technology giant.

Dr. Mike Evans, also known as "DocMikeEvans" and a former staff physician at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, has already started his new line of digital health care work with Apple. Evans, who declined to discuss his job in detail, is commuting between Toronto and Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., while his older son finishes high school. His new job involves worldwide health innovation.

"I think why they are engaging me is the messaging," Evans told Matt Galloway on CBC's Metro Morning on Monday. "We're searching for consistency, not perfection."
Dr. Mike Evans has made a name for himself through his YouTube videos that explain common medical problems with a hand drawing relevant graphics and using a whiteboard. The good doctor says: "I think the way we engage people will totally change." (YouTube)

Evans said Apple became interested in his videos that feature his voice and a cartoon doctor explaining common medical problems with the help of a whiteboard. As Evans speaks in the video, a hand draws relevant cartoons. He calls it peer-to-peer health care.

He began the series about five years ago. The first one asked the question: "What is the single best thing we can do for our health?" He said the videos may seem simple but each one may have up to 15 edits.

"We summarize the best evidence. We have lots of fun with them. They're humourous. They're easy to watch. They're short. You just go to DocMikeEvans on YouTube and everything is there," he said.

He said Apple approached him earlier but he turned it down and the company kept in touch. "They were most interested, interestingly, in how I worked with creatives."

One of his most popular videos, with more than 155,000 views, is "What Can You Do to Get Through a Crap Week?"

Evans said the future of health care will be a combination of face-to-face visits, involving a doctor and a patient who trusts that doctor, and advanced technology.

"I think the way we engage people will totally change," he said.

"What happens now is I see you. Let's say you have high blood pressure. I prescribe you a pill for that. I see you two or three times a year," he said.

"In future, I'll prescribe you an app. One of our whiteboards will drop in and explain what high blood pressure is. The phone will be bluetoothed to the cap of your pills. I'll nudge you towards a low salt diet. All of these things will all happen in your phone. I see you two or three days a year. The phone sees you everyday."

Evans said the future of health care will look at "our phenotypes around change" and figuring out what works "nudge- wise" to motivate for people to seek better health, disease management and healthier lives. For example, he said, some people might respond to the messaging on a watch, or a whiteboard in a video, while others might respond to social competition, or a reward.

"To be honest, I think we'll all be different," he said. "The future will be figuring that out."

The new job is challenging, he said.

"It's exciting. It's a bit nauseating and anxiety-provoking. We love Toronto but it's a chance to live another chapter of our lives somewhere else. I'm super-excited." 

Evans is the lead of digital preventative medicine at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute and an associate professor of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto. Evans launched his YouTube Med School for the Public in 2011, acquiring more than 70,000 subscribers and 14 million views.

Leslie Shepherd, spokesperson for St. Michael's Hospital, said the hospital wants to retain its ties with Evans.