- Apple, which has been moving into the healthcare realm, is now talking with UnitedHealth and Humana on its new platform HealthKit, which aggregates data from health and wellness devices and apps into one dashboard. User-approved data will then be shared with employers, insurance companies or electronic medical records.
- This tool will allow employers to give insurance discounts to employees who track things like daily steps taken or meeting weight loss goals. Humana and UnitedHealthcare have already entered the mobile market—Humana with the purchase of Healthrageous, a mobile engagement company and United with the launch of the mobile health app Health4Me this summer.
- Humana recently released data showing that users who were "unengaged" with Health Vitality, their employee wellness initiative, spent $53 more a month on average and had more than double the rate of unexplained absences than people who were regular users.
The Affordable Care Act allows employers to spend up to 30% of their yearly insurance premiums on healthy behavior rewards. This creates an untapped, captive market for device manufacturers. Parks Associates has projected that this year alone, about 22 million fitness-tracking devices will be sold. By 2018, that number is expected to be 66 million.
These new devices and platforms will allow employers and insurance companies to get data about people's health that was previously unavailable. These new programs will allow people to be charged according to their health data. While on the surface that tallies very nicely with the model of patient engagement and wellness care that the ACA is trying to promote, there are some possible problems here: Critics cite privacy concerns and consent issues as potential future pitfalls of the technology. Will employees be willing to share their personal habits with their employers—and is it even ethical to ask them to do so?
That said, this bodes well for HealthKit. The movement of two major insurers into the health monitoring app market is further evidence of the strength of Apple's product. There have also been reports that the tech giant has spoken with some major providers, like Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins. What this development doesn't address is concerns about the balkanization of data: Apple has tied its platform to its iOS operating system, something that could leave many providers out of the mix.
Want to read more? You might enjoy this story about why Apple, Epic and IBM are unlikely to dominate mHealth anytime soon.