Under a reported partnership Aetna is considering with Apple, the insurance giant would offer Apple Watches to its 23 million insurance customers for free or at a discounted price to encourage healthier lifestyles.
The two companies held "a series of secret discussions" about the plan in California Thursday and Friday, according to a report yesterday by CNBC. In addition to executives from Apple and Aetna, a number of chief medical information officers from hospitals across the U.S. also attended, the report said.
Last fall, Aetna began offering the Apple Watch at no cost to its nearly 50,000 employees, and made the wearable available to "select large employers and individual customers" through a subsidized, monthly payroll deduction plan. Aetna's move is part of a larger trend where businesses are encouraging or requiring employees and/or customers to wear smart devices to reduce health and accident risks.
Partner Program Starting Next Year?
Apple is currently the third-largest wearables vendor in the world, behind Xiaomi in first place and Fitbit in second place, according to Q2 2017 data from the analyst firm Strategy Analytics. It's also the world's largest smart watch vendor, with more than half of the global market, Strategy Analytics said.
First launched in April 2015, the Apple Watch now comes with a wide range of health- and fitness-focused capabilities, including personalized activity coaching and a GymKit platform for connected workouts on cardio equipment. Apple has also been working on a variety of other health-related apps and partnerships, such as iPad apps to improve care for the elderly, a non-invasive method for diabetics to monitor blood sugar levels, and several healthcare industry applications developed with IBM.
Citing "three people familiar with the matter," CNBC reported that Apple's latest talks with Aetna could see a joint program launched sometime early next year. "This is a logical step for Apple's broader distribution of their watch, and this type of partnership has been on their radar from the beginning," Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a technology-focused consultancy, told CNBC.
Goal: 'Increasing Healthy Outcomes'
Under the partner program with Apple announced in September, Aetna said it planned "several iOS-exclusive health initiatives, starting with deeply integrated health apps for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch that will significantly improve the ability of consumers to manage their health and increase healthy outcomes." The company also noted that its plan to subsidize Apple Watch purchases by certain employers and customers was a first in the healthcare industry.
Working with Apple, Aetna said it would develop apps for care management and wellness, medication reminders, and personalized health planning. The insurance company said it also plans to integrate its services with Apple Wallet so customers could use the payment platform to check deductibles and pay bills.
Many other companies are exploring ways to use wearables and other Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to reduce their health- and safety-related liabilities. Some car and home insurance firms, for instance, offer discounts to customers who use auto-tracking devices or smart thermostats.
The growing use of such applications, however, also raises concerns about personal data security, especially in light of recent ransomware attacks on hospitals and research that has exposed lax security measures in IoT devices.