Apple steps up Health push as it begins talks with insurers

Apple steps up Health push as it begins talks with insurers

Summary: With Apple's new Health app set to launch this year, the company has been in discussions with insurance companies about where it could fit into their business.

TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, iOS
Apple's Health app. Image: Apple

Apple has been in talks with US health insurance firms, it has emerged - notably those that have already taken steps to integrate data from wearables into insurance policies.

Apple has been preparing the ground for the launch of its Health application, which will debut alongside iOS 8 later this year. Besides recent talks with US healthcare providers and developers of health-related apps, Apple has also been courting large US health insurance firms.

News of Apple's discussions with health insurers came via an interesting report from Bloomberg today on the emergence of company-funded wearables in the workplace. The report notes that Apple has talked with America's biggest insurer, UnitedHealth, as well as fellow health insurer Humana.

Bloomberg highlights that the two insurance companies have also created programs to integrate wearables into their policies, in order create reward systems based on data from the devices shared with the insurer's systems.

UnitedHealth had a presence at CES earlier this year, where it showcased its work with game developers to combat obesity through school-based health programs that used wireless mats to track students' activity. Similarly, the idea there was to encourage people to monitor their own health using technology.

Beyond Apple's new health app, exactly what was talked about isn't clear, however the report explores some of the ways insurers and companies are using fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, to tackle rising medical expenses — an issue pertinent to employers in the US, which often foot the bill for employee health insurance.

According to the publication, BP bought 25,000 Fitbit devices for its employees as part of an initiative to cut health insurance costs. Under the program, employees must log one million steps to earn half of the 1,000 points they need to qualify for lower health costs. The company verifies whether the employee achieved the milestone by looking at Fitbit data in aggregate.

Apple's Health and the iOS developer toolset, HealthKit, not to mention its rumoured iWatch, could play in an important role in connecting employee health data with insurance firms.

Health will be used to store measurements of a user's health, such as calories consumed, sleep and heart rate. The application will also let people create emergency health cards that can be accessed via the home screen, offering a shortcut to existing medical conditions or allergies.

Read more on Health

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iOS

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Invasion of privacy?

    sending raw data direct to an insurance company, bypassing my doctor, is really not the kind of future I want. How long before they count how many cigarettes I smoke, and insist I spend 7 hours (and $70) in the gym each week?

    I'd happily change my insurer for that. Away from these guys.
    • It's not an invasion of privacy…

      It's not an invasion of privacy if you voluntarily give them the info. If you're smoking cigarettes then you should be paying more in premiums. The rest of us who take care of ourselves shouldn't have to subsidize those who abuse their bodies. It would be like if you smashed your car with a sledge hammer each day and then expected your insurance company to cover you for the damage. By the way, you don't need to spend $70 on a gym membership to stay fit. Walking is a great form of exercise and it's free.
      Bill Snebold
      • New market

        I can see a new market. Get gym users to wear your "wearable" tech.
      • You contrive to miss the point.

        I KNOW walking is free - but my insurance company may INSIST I workout in the gym - because some twat decided it's healthier.
      • Watch IRobot and Atlas Shrugged.

        "The rest of us who take care of ourselves shouldn't have to subsidize those who abuse their bodies"

        That's the whole point of the ACA and mandatory purchasing of insurance, but of course it's not working.

        In the near future, things like this may NOT be voluntary.

        You have the WH mandating school lunches. You have the federal government mandating the purchase of a product (insurance). It will only grow worse from here. Have a spare room or two. Mandated you take in homeless people or immigrants who illegally entered the country.

        Yes, it seems a rediculous statement, but we've already seen things we wouldn't have expected from our own government. NSA, ACA, School lunches..

        Whatever happened to land of the free and self-responsibility and accountability for one's own self?

        I agree that smokers should pay higher premiums for their insurance. That's directly related to their actions/choices. I'm against federally mandated purchasing of insurance.

        I"m with Ron Paul regarding people who make an active choice NOT to buy health insurance. Let them die.

        Accountability for ones own choices/actions.
        • There has to be a line somewhere

          You could also say don't legislate mandatory schooling. Let them be stupid.
  • Apple contributes to obesity

    So do all tech companies. People need to get off there computers to stay healthy. Apple doesnt care about peoples health, the internal Apple discussions around health apps are "how do we make more money".
    Sean Foley
    • Yes…

      No company "cares" about their customers. They care about profits. But if Apple's customers care about their health then maybe they can make more money by tapping into that market.
      Bill Snebold