Some of the launch details are vague but health insurer Aetna Inc. is planning a big push into mobile healthcare featuring Apple devices and apps beginning early next year.

Aetna says it is collaborating with Apple Inc. on an initiative whereby Aetna will work with its biggest employer customers to distribute Apple watches to employees that sign up for their companys health and wellness program.

In addition to distributing Apple watches, Aetna also says it is working with Apple to develop a series of iOS apps for Aetna employers and plan members to download and track various health and wellness initiatives.

Aetna says nearly 50,000 of its own employees enrolled in its company wellness reimbursement program will be offered an Apple watch for free, enabling them to download and utilize the new health and wellness apps. Aetna says it will make the new health and wellness initiative available to large employers beginning in early 2017, in time for each particular companys benefits enrollment season.

Aetna will make Apple watch available to select large employers and individual customers during open enrollment season and Aetna will be the first major healthcare company to subsidize a significant portion of the Apple Watch cost, the company says.


Aetna hasnt released key details of its new initiative such as the cost of the program to employers, how much the company is spending to subsidize the distribution of Apple watches and how it will market and manage the distribution process.

Aetna also has yet to say if any employers have so far signed up for the new health and wellness program or if there are any plans for Android devices.

But Aetna does say that when the new mobile healthcare program is fully rolled out, the iOS apps will let employers employees perform a range of health and wellness tasks including:

  • Care management and wellness tools that will guide consumers through health events like a new diagnosis or prescription medication.
  • Medication adherence tools, to help consumers remember to take their medications, easily order refills and connect with their doctor online using an Apple device if they need a different treatment.
  • The apps will be integrated with Apple Wallet, allowing consumers to check their deductible and pay a bill.
  • Personalized health planning tools and online customer service support to better understand health plan benefits.

We are using iPhone, iPad, and Apple watch to create simple, intuitive and personalized technology that will transform the health and wellness experience for our members, says Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini.


Aetna is a big user and backer of digital healthcare. Aetna has been making a substantial investment in digital and mobile health technology primarily through acquisition since 2011.

In November 2014, for example, Aetna acquired bswift for $400 million. Bswift is a healthcare technology platform provider that Aetna says offers a retail shopping experience for health insurance exchanges and employers nationwide. Additionally, bswift offers benefits administration technology and services to employers.

In 2012 Aetna also acquired Healthagen, the developer of iTriage, a mobile app that provides users with medical and related diagnostic information and access to local providers.

Aetna also has been building up its digital delivery of health insurance and related information since 2005 when the company first launched a desktop web portal. Today about 15 million of the companys 19.5 million healthcare plan enrollees have access to the portal. The next big push is to make the portaland scheduled new features for the websiteavailable for mobile users.


Mobile health is a big development priority for Aetnas digital program, the insurer says. Today about 14 million users have downloaded Aetnas main app. With the app, users can search for a doctor, dentist, or a facility, such as urgent care centers and walk-in clinics. Users also can log into a secure section of the portal to view claims, coverage and benefits, personal health records and identification card information.

Aetna is the latest but not the first big commercial insurance company to include a major health upgrade to employee wellness programs for employers. In March health insurance company United HealthCare Services Inc. launched a mobile health and fitness incentive program, powered by a wearable device and an app.

The program is called UnitedHealthcare Motion and provides insured employees with a fitness wearable device that tracks their steps. The wearable device sends the health tracking data to the UnitedHealthcare Motion app. If they meet certain goals, employees can earn health reimbursements credits, up to $1,460 per year, based on the number of steps they take.