Want to cut the cost of your Apple Watch? Aetna will reward you for taking more exercise

Time to get active says insurance giant as it launches new programme with Apple.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Apple and US insurer Aetna are offering a health-reward programme that will cut the cost of an Apple Watch in exchange for being active and other beneficial behaviours.

By using an Apple Watch, the Attain app will set personalized goals for members and track their daily activity level. It will also reward them for recommend healthy actions. The Attain app is due to be in the Apple App Store in Spring 2019; the company said it is initially limited to between 250,000 and 300,000 people but even at that initial scale it would become one of the largest deployments of Apple Watch devices so far. 

Aetna said the new project builds on a 2016 collaboration between Aetna and Apple in which 90 percent of participants reported a health benefit from their use of Apple Watch. In recent years Apple has been gradually putting together the pieces of a broad healthcare strategy, seeing it as a significant opportunity for its products. Recently its CEO Tim Cook said that, one day, the company's greatest contribution to humanity would be considered to be in that sector.

The forthcoming Aetna app will set users personalized daily and weekly activity goals, based on their age, sex and weight. Activity includes steps but also other activities measured by the Apple Watch, such as swimming and yoga. It will also offer weekly goals so that users can earn points for behaviours that improve their overall health and well-being, such as getting more sleep, increasing mindfulness and improving nutrition.

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The system also recommends actions based on a user's health history and their Apple Watch sensor data.

At launch these will include reminders to meet activity goals or get vaccinations, or reminders to refill medication prescriptions when they're scheduled to run out

Members will be able to use their existing Apple Watch or buy a new one as part of the programme: in exchange for complete activity goals or the healthy behaviours recommended the users will earn reward points, which can be redeemed to cut the cost of the Apple Watch or for retailer's gift cards

Aetna said all health data is encrypted on the device, in transit, and on Aetna and Apple's servers, where it will be stored in a highly secure environment using industry-leading practices fully in compliance with HIPAA. It said information from this programme will not be used for underwriting, premium or coverage decisions.

The company said the rewards platform builds off a program developed by Vitality Group, a model that has demonstrated that incentives linked to the Apple Watch are associated with increased, sustained activity. Under the Vitality deal, by hitting some goals for physical activity, members can cut the cost of the monthly payments for their Apple Watch, with its most energetic users able to pay nothing at all. A report looking at the effectiveness of this found an average 34 percent increase in activity levels for those using Vitality's reward scheme with the Apple Watch, compared to those only using the company's other incentives,

For insurers it's a case of prevention is always better than cure. Offering people a deal to cut the cost of their smartwatch — which then encourages them to exercise — can reduce their need for medical treatment in the long term, meaning there's a saving for the company and better health for the individual. For Apple there's the chance to sell new hardware to people who may not have considered buying an iPhone or Apple Watch before. 


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