Apple and Aetna held a series of meetings late last week to discuss the next step in their partnership involving the Apple Watch, and one person in attendance was able to share her insights into what topics were covered.
It was recently revealed that the two companies held a series of secret sessions to discuss how to bring the Apple Watch to Aetna’s 23 million members and 50,000 employees. As part of Aetna’s corporate wellness program, members and employees would receive a free or discounted Apple Watch.
CNBC reported news that Aetna is currently gathering feedback from its employees, who are testing whether the wearable can help them eat better and exercise more regularly.
Chief medical officers from various health systems and a select group of Aetna employees were invited to the meetings, with Apple’s Myoung Cha presiding over many of the discussions. In addition, a small group of digital health influencers were also in attendance. One of them — Mandi Bishop — shared that a huge portion of the event involved discussions about data privacy.
One of the biggest concerns with companies like Apple and Fitbit collecting health information is that it could get into the wrong hands. These fears are amplified as technology companies make deals with self-insured employers and health plans.
Apple has repeatedly stressed that health data can only be shared with user consent. And these policies extend to third-party apps for iPhone and Apple Watch. “Both companies wanted to make sure that we knew what data is shared and what isn’t,” said Bishop.
Cost was also a concern. Many of those who were enrolled in the program wanted to get healthy alongside their families but couldn’t afford to spend upwards of $1,000 on wearables for their spouses and children. While the issue wasn’t resolved, it remained a talking point throughout the meetings.
Finally, discussions also explored the impact Apple Watch can make if it can attract people who have costly chronic diseases. In order to do that, it also needs to appeal to an older demographic. Apple is already making progress by releasing its bluetooth API for Apple Watch, which allows users to sync their watch to a glucose sensor from medical device makers like Dexcom — a useful feature for patients with diabetes.
Bishop envisions a future where the device could collect important health information and even alert health plans or providers about a serious medical event. “That’s where it gets really useful,” she said.