An Apple-app a day keeps the doctor away

Apple and benefit provider Aetna announced the creation of a new wellness app that incorporates a user’s health plan information with Apple Watch.

Called Attain, the app operates exclusively on the Apple Watch and is scheduled to go live this spring. Companies will be able to offer the app as part of their benefits package by purchasing access from Aetna. During a live webcast from Boston, executives from Apple and Aetna said the technology has the potential to nudge everyone toward a healthy, active lifestyle.

“We would be proud if users considered Attain as a check engine light for their health,” says Ben Wanamaker, head of consumer technology and services at Aetna.

The app takes all the fitness and sleep tracking features from Apple Watch and creates a reward system to incentivize users to make healthy choices. Users receive points when they meet fitness goals or start a new habit — like going to bed on time. Those points translate into gift cards for large retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and CVS. The gift card rewards are managed by Vitality Group — a health and wellness program.

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An employee sets up an Apple Watch for a customer at an Apple Inc. store, in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Apple Inc. is rolling out a "Reserve & Pickup" system which allows customers to choose a Watch online then buy and collect the order in store. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

“A combination of behavioral science and technology can help drive activity,” says Tal Gilbert, CEO for Vitality USA, a division of Vitality Group. “We find the people who need to make healthy changes the most saw the biggest benefit.”

User health plan information is fed directly into Attain to access the app’s other features. Attain reminds users to take their medication at the correct time through Apple Watch alerts. It also advises wearers when to get a flu shot, and reminds them when it’s time for an appointment.

“Physicians tell us one of the most important elements of health, and the hardest to change, is establishing healthy habits,” says Jeff Williams, COO of Apple. “We put a high priority in doing this in a way that protects security and encourages people to play a more active role in their health and wellbeing.”

Prescriptions can also be refilled and monitored through Attain. The app individualizes the experience by using medical records to connect with the user’s pharmacy. Users will get alerts when prescriptions are ready for pickup. The app also allows users to schedule refills online or by phone.

“I’m one of those people that still likes to call and talk to an actual person,” Wanamaker says. “The app will call the actual pharmacy where your prescription is held.”

Apple executives said security was prioritized during Attain’s development. Since Aetna’s entire enterprise involves protecting sensitive healthcare data, they worked alongside Apple to develop the app’s security system.

“We realize this is sensitive information, and we take precautions to make sure Apple is not able to identify people with this data and it’s protected from outside sources,” says Myoung Cha, head of health strategic initiatives at Apple.

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