Aetna, which already offers the Apple Watch to its employees as part of a wellness program, is now in talks with Apple about pushing the wearable device to the health insurer’s members, according to a report in CNBC.
The report from health technology reporter Christina Farr noted that “Apple and Aetna held a series of secret discussions last week to bring Apple's health and fitness-tracking smartwatch to millions more people connected to Aetna,” according to Farr’s sources.
The Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna covers some 23 million people, and the plan would be to offer them a free or discounted Apple Watch as a perk. The meeting last week included executives from Aetna and Apple, as well as hospital chief medical information officers (CMIOs) across the country, Farr reported. One of her sources also noted that Aetna's proposed timeline is slated for early next year.
And, according to a Business Insider analysis of the deal, “It could provide more refined use cases for Apple Watch apps. Health apps from insurance companies could incentivize consumers to use these devices. Aetna plans to develop a suite of iOS health initiatives with support from Apple, which would give Aetna customers access to integrated health apps for the Apple Watch, iPhone, and iPad.”
In 2014 Apple released its long-awaited smartwatch with one of its aims being to better monitor consumers’ health by collecting data and sharing it with providers. It was then a year later when provider organizations such as New Orleans-based Ochsner Health System began using the Apple Watch to help manage patients suffering from chronic diseases. At Ochsner, the Apple Watch is used to enhance the effectiveness of the provider’s hypertension digital medicine program, an initiative that tracks several hundred patients who are struggling to control their blood pressure. Through the Apple Watch, patients were able to receive medication reminders which included actual pictures of the pill; feedback from clinicians about potential side effects once a new medication is prescribed; renewal notification for prescriptions, and activity tracking and exercise reminders.
CNBC’s Farr was also the first to report a few other stories related to Apple’s latest forays into health IT. For one, it was reported in April that Apple has been building a “secret team” to develop sensors that can noninvasively and continuously monitor blood sugar levels to better treat diabetes. What’s more, the tech giant has been establishing another team, and is in talks with a multitude of healthcare stakeholders, about bringing all of a patient’s health information together via its flagship product—the iPhone, according to a June story.
Regarding the medical record project, Micky Tripathi, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, told Healthcare Informatics that the report does have legs. Said Tripathi, speaking to the specialized market advantage that Apple has, “Apple has a unique positioning where it is in customers’ minds with respect to people having already put their faith in Apple. You have your smartphone and your Apple ID, and you have it right there already with your most personal and deepest and darkest things already on your phone. So why not medical records, too?”