Aetna's Apple Watch App Aims to Personalize & Incentivize Digital Health

Jack Murtha
JANUARY 29, 2019
attain app,aetna apple,aetna app,insurer digital health
Images have been modified. Courtesy of Aetna.

Aetna is teaming up with Apple to release a new mobile health (mHealth) app called Attain, which is designed to personalize digital health regimens for beneficiaries, who could receive incentives for hitting wellness goals.

Set to debut this spring, Attain is for Aetna members with an Apple Watch and an iPhone 5S or a newer model. The project marries mHealth, wearables and claims data to build what Aetna hopes will be a full view of participants’ health — and how to improve it. The idea is that real-world and claims information can combine to help create a personalized digital health experience that members will adopt.

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“We understand that you don’t need to be a personal trainer or work out several hours a day to be healthier,” Alan Lotvin, M.D., executive vice president of transformation at CVS Health, Aetna’s parent company, said in a statement. “We’re designing Attain to be personalized and clinically relevant to where each individual is in their health journey.”

Taking into account patient medical histories, Attain tailors wellness goals to participants, tracks their activity data and suggests they take healthy steps. For instance, Attain’s website shows screenshots recommending users build a bedtime plan or receive a flu shot. The app might also advise users to refill drug prescriptions or visit a primary care physician.

But unlike free fitness trackers, Attain puts something back into successful users’ pockets. The app’s rewards range, with credits to Amazon, Best Buy, Target and other merchants depicted in screenshots. Aetna members who don’t have an Apple Watch may even obtain one through Attain. (And yes, the app also deals in CVS Health credits.)

When insurers launch data-driven programs like Attain, it tends to raise eyebrows and questions from skeptics who see the move as a data grab. The fear is, if Aetna all of a sudden has access to holistic health data, it might choose to raise rates. Critics also worry that insurers will one day choose to deny or cancel coverage based on this kind of data.

So far, however, payer-orchestrated digital health programs have been built around incentives rather than punishments. Attain is no different, and Aetna appears sensitive to the potential concerns of members, noting that the program is voluntary, participants may quit whenever they please, the data are encrypted, and none of it will inform “underwriting, premium or coverage decisions.”

“User privacy and data security are at the heart of Attain,” Aetna wrote.

Apple and Aetna previously worked together on an Apple Watch-based program that the companies said resulted in positive health effects for 90 percent of users. And the first iteration of Attain doesn’t look to be the last, thanks in part to Apple’s machine-learning and analytical capabilities.

“As we learn over time, the goal is to make more customized recommendations that will help members accomplish their goals and live healthier lives,” Apple’s chief operating officer, Jeff Williams, said in a statement.

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