On the heels of Apple taking a bigger step into health care with their new, stringent medical app guidelines, Aetna announced that it would partner with the tech giant for a new customer health program utilizing Apple’s mobile products. As part of the deal, Aetna will subsidize a “significant portion” of the Apple Watch for its customers and provide the watch to its 50,000 employees at no cost making them the first U.S. insurance company to do so.
The initiative also includes new apps that are integrated with Apple products. iOS-based apps for care management, medication adherence, payment (via Apple Wallet) and insurance onboarding will be available in early 2017.
While Aetna wants to get their customers to be more active, Apple probably sees this as a way to get units of the smartwatch moving with a good publicity angle as well. Compared to the iPhone, Apple Watch sales have been sluggish.
Speaking of iPhone, one of the problems with this program is the proprietary nature of the Apple Watch. With Android continuing to take up a bigger market share in the US, the Aetna-provided Apple Watch only works to potential when paired with an iPhone, and their apps, one can safely assume, will be iOS only. This excludes a majority of smartphone users from taking full advantage of the program.
But could this collaboration revolutionize the industry?
While impressive in scale, the concept is nothing new. Earlier this year, wellness provider Vitality offered employees a $25 Apple Watch — if they met fitness goals. And for years, insurance companies have given customers ways to take control of their health through incentives like gym membership reimbursements, and companies like Oscar give discounts for customers tracking their health with wearables. Although the Apple Watch’s capabilities are more robust than Oscar’s stepcounter, the Aetna and Apple partnership is just a higher-end version of the same thing.