The “quantified self” strategy only works if you have a way to quantify the self. Wearables — including smart watches — offer a handy way to collect such data, but these tend to be fairly expensive and not everyone sees them as a necessity that requires a significant chunk of their disposable income. You’d think that the organizations that stand the most to gain from better data about individuals — employers, healthcare providers, insurance companies — would want to subsidize these devices in order to reap the financial benefits of better information.
It appears that the health insurance giant Aetna has done the math and decided in favor of wearables. The company has announced a program in which it will make the Apple Watch available to “select large employers and individual customers.” Aetna will subsidize “a significant portion” of the cost and offer a monthly payroll deduction plan to cover the remaining cost. Not satisfied with just helping its customers, Aetna will also provide an Apple Watch at no cost to nearly 50,000 of its own employees as part of a company-wide wellness reimbursement program.
The Apple Watch give-away is part of a larger health initiative created with support by Apple. A series of “deeply integrated” apps will be made available for use on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch to help consumers manage their health and improve their health outcomes. The apps aim to tackle everything from medication adherence to improved messaging with healthcare professionals.
Aside from being an apparent boon for Apple at a time of news about slumping Apple Watch sales, this could be a bellwether for the wearables industry as a whole. If the organizations that stand to gain the most from data gathered by Health Tech wearables start providing them on a large scale to employees and customers, we could see a huge jump in product sales. We also will likely see increased pressure for devices with greater accuracy and the ability to gather more biometric information. This could be the start of something big.