Apple and Aetna are teaming up on a new app to help track and reward healthy behavior

  • Apple and Aetna are teaming up on a new app, called Attain, which the two companies have been working on since 2016.
  • The app offers challenges, reminders, goals and more. One of the reward options is an Apple Watch, which users can earn by engaging in healthy behaviors.
  • The app is designed to be personalized for the user, and not one-sized-fits-all.

Apple and insurance giant Aetna have teamed up on an iPhone and Apple Watch app that provides rewards, including an option to earn a free Apple Watch, to members who engage in healthy behaviors like getting regular exercise and more hours of sleep. The new app, dubbed Attain, also provides Aetna members who sign up with nudges, such as to get an annual flu shot or take their medication on time.

The two companies have been working together since 2016 on the Attain app, which will be available in the spring of this year.

Aetna, which merged with pharmacy giant CVS in November of 2018, serves tens of millions of people, making it a prime channel to bolster sales of Apple Watch. Those who aren't enrolled in Aetna can access an Apple Watch through other wellness programs, such as United Healthcare's, but Aetna's is different in some other key ways, including its focus on personalization and its relationship with Apple.

Apple has also made clear that health care is a key area of future growth. The company has a variety of health-related initiatives in progress, ranging from software to collect medical information to biomedical sensors.

Earlier this month, Apple's CEO Tim Cook told CNBC's Jim Cramer: "I believe, if you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, "What was Apple's greatest contribution to mankind?" It will be about health."

How the plan works

The companies are hoping to find success where previous efforts have struggled by designing an experience that is unique to the individual, rather than a one-sized-fits-all approach. Those who sign up and use the Apple Watch to track their progress will receive health goals that are unique to them, as well as recommendations, nudges and rewards.

Those who enroll and don't already have an Apple Watch receive a Series 3 device from Aetna, or can pay out of pocket for an upgrade to the latest series 4. Then they "earn" back the price of the device over 24 months by meeting fitness goals. Alternatively, points can be used to redeem things like corporate gift cards. Those who stop participating may be required to pay a portion of the Apple Watch out-of-pocket. But Aetna said that members can notify its customer service team if they have a health issue, such as a surgery or pregnancy, that might prevent them from meeting their goals.

The program is voluntary, and is eligible to Aetna members with an iPhone 5s or later. At the get-go, Aetna told CNBC that there will be 250,000 to 300,000 slots available, assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. But as of the spring, employers that use Aetna as their health plan will have the option to buy additional slots for their employees. Eventually, Aetna hopes to scale out the Attain program to all of its members. Aetna's web site claims it has 22.1 million medical members.

Users can set weekly calorie goals with the Attain app
Aetna
Users can set weekly calorie goals with the Attain app

Both companies said that the program is designed to be accessible to people with more serious health issues, including one or more chronic diseases, rather than those who are already fit and healthy.

"From fitness enthusiasts, to casual gym-goers, to parents who get all their exercise by keeping up with their kids — we designed Attain for everyone," said Alan Lotvin, executive vice president of transformation for CVS Health, in a statement. "We understand that you don't need to be a personal trainer or work out several hours a day to be healthier."

Members can incorporate their health history and their Apple Watch data. Apple Watch currently measures users' steps, heart rate, heart rhythm and more, and Aetna can integrate members' claims information.

Because of that, the app can recommend healthy actions to the individual, such as daily active calorie goals or to take a 10-minute walk.

These recommendations to members might change over time, as the app gets smarter about each user's needs. For instance, rather than simply recommending a flu shot, it might prompt a user to get one more urgently if there's been an outbreak of the disease in their area.

"As we learn over time, the goal is to make more customized recommendations that will help members accomplish their goals and live healthier lives," said Apple COO Jeff Williams in a statement.

Users can access rewards, like an Apple Watch
Aetna
Users can access rewards, like an Apple Watch

Understanding that some users may be skittish about sharing personal health information, Apple and Aetna are making privacy a priority.

Apple executives have often stressed that the company user privacy very seriously. In this case, members' data is encrypted in transit and at rest, and Apple has said it will not access data that uniquely identifies an individual.

For its part, Aetna said that it won't use the data gathered from the Apple Watch to make coverage decisions, including to increase monthly premiums.

Those who are interested in signing up for the Attain app can get more information here.

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