Apple, Aetna's new health app: 5 things to know, 4 questions that remain

There's a few features that make Attain — Apple and Aetna's new health app — stand out from the rest, according to Chilmark Research.

Apple and Aetna developed Attain as part of a new initiative, under which Aetna will give those who enroll an Apple Watch Series 3, if they don't already have an Apple Watch. Program participants will be able to "pay off" the device by meeting fitness goals over the course of 24 months.

It's a voluntary program that will accept the first 250,000 to 300,000 people who enroll, although Aetna plans to eventually make it available to its more than 22.1 million members.

Five things to know about Attain, a health, wellness and medication adherence app:

  1. The watch-based app employs nudges, or notification-like reminders, designed to promote healthy habits and change unhealthy behaviors.
  1. Attain will set wellness goals based on a participant's age, gender and weight, but will adjust them over time to personalize the health and wellness experience.
  1. In the early stages of the program, Aetna will promote the app directly to its members instead of through employers.
  1. Chilmark notes that the benefit is a "loss-framed incentive" program, whereas most wellness benefit programs are gain-based incentives. With Attain, the loss-framed incentive means the participant must pay back a portion of the Apple Watch if they fall short of their goals.
  1. Regarding data, Aetna and Apple are taking strong stances on privacy and security. Aetna said it won't use collected data for underwriting and won't sell the information to third parties, and Apple noted it will only collect de-identified data — with the customer's permission — which it will use to improve the app.

Chilmark also shared our unanswered questions about Attain:

  1. Attain hasn't said how it will address chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes or mental health.
  1. The companies have yet to reveal whether Attain will become a platform with open application programming interfaces that enables developers to build modules for it.
  1. Aetna and Apple haven't equipped Attain to alert members about care gaps or help them schedule medical appointments.
  1. It's not yet clear how data captured through Attain could be used by providers to improve patient outcomes.

Click here to access the complete Chilmark Research report.

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