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Medicare May Join Forces with Apple Watch to Monitor Consumer Health

Posted on May 1st, 2019 by in Pharma R&D

Apple is a company that has long been thought of us an innovator that has brought consumers an array of enticing gadgets, from home computers to iPods to smartphones. This technology has been transformative for its users, but mostly it has been associated with work and play. Increasingly, though, Apple appears to be interested in getting involved in another critical part of our lives: our health.

The Apple Watch, which initially seemed like little more than a way to check text messages at a glance, has been one of the main ways that the company has insinuated itself into the healthcare space. As a part of the vanguard of “wearables,” the Apple Watch initially addressed personal health by measuring the wearer’s steps and providing heart rate information. But the newest, 4thseries of the device boasts an EKG app and a fall detection feature, making a stronger case for its genuine usefulness in health monitoring.

In further evidence that Apple is serious about its future in the healthcare business, CNBC recently revealed that Apple has actually been talking to multiple private Medicare plans about the possibility of subsidizing the Watch for senior citizens to use as a health tracker. “The talks have not resulted in any official deals just yet,” reported Christina Farr. “Apple has paid a visit to several of the largest insurers in the market, as well as some smaller, venture-backed Medicare Advantage plans.” 

Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies, with Medicare paying the company to cover the patient’s benefits. “Medicare Advantage has been a lucrative space for potential experimentation in lowering healthcare costs due to its capitated model which allows for more flexibility in approach in providing care,” writes Kevin Truong of MedCity News. “Around 19 million people are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans currently, but that number is continuing to grow with major insurers like Aetna and UnitedHealth announcing major expansion plans.”

That’s a lot of potential Apple Watch customers.

So, would it actually be advantageous for Medicare Advantage providers to subsidize the hefty $399 price tag for all those Apple Watches? Business Insider contributor Nicky Lineaweaver makes an argument in the affirmative. “The annual medical costs from hospital admissions for an AFib patient are nearly $5,000 higher than a non-AFib patient,” Lineaweaver writes. “Skirting just one admission through the Watch’s AFib detection or expediting care for a recently fallen patient would likely create a large return on investment from reduced medical costs.”

Apple has been pretty quiet about its courting of Medicare Advantage providers so far, but it will be interesting to see what steps the tech giant takes next as it further explores its future role in the healthcare industry.

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