Health Care

In deal with Apple, CVS clients get temporary access to new fitness feature

Dive Brief:

CVS Health has struck a deal with Apple to give temporary free access for the health giant’s clients, customers and employees to Apple’s new subscription fitness service.
Beneficiaries enrolled in Aetna’s commercial or CVS Caremark’s prescription plans will be offered a free one-year subscription to the feature, called Apple Fitness+. A free two-month subscription will be offered to CVS Pharmacy ExtraCare members and all CVS employees after the service is launched, per Tuesday’s release.
The announcement coincided with Apple’s unveiling of the subscription service, which offers virtual fitness classes. The tech giant on Tuesday also released the latest model of its Apple Watch, which includes a new blood oxygen level tracker.

Dive Insight:
Payers are increasingly trying to differentiate themselves to consumers by offering a host of nontraditional benefits, including wellness and fitness features. Following its almost $70 billion acquisition of Aetna almost two years ago, CVS has been trying to combine its extensive retail footprint with claims data for Aetna’s more than 20 million members to cut costs.
Tuesday’s announcement represents an expansion of CVS and Apple’s ties. In 2016, 90% of participants in Aetna’s employee wellness subsidy program reported positive health benefits from using an Apple Watch. Last May, Aetna launched an app for the Apple Watch called Attain, which combines wearables and claims data to let users set activity goals and other wellness milestones while earning rewards for healthy behavior.
CVS’ diversified book of business has kept it relatively stable, even amid the coronavirus emergency. It remains on track to open 1,500 HealthHUBs, locations devoting a fifth of floor space to health products and services, by the end of 2021, though CVS paused conversions of some stores in March.
The healthcare giant has converted 275 retail locations to HealthHUBs as of the end of August, CEO Larry Merlo said Tuesday morning at Morgan Stanley’s annual healthcare conference.
​Fitness+ is Apple’s first workout capability for its smartwatches that will be tailored to each person using their fitness data. The subscription service will be available before the end of this year for $9.99 a month.
The product comes as wearables manufacturers increasingly try to hit the sweet spot between fitness tracking and broader health monitoring capabilities. Studies are mixed on whether wearables actually improve user health in the long term, but that hasn’t stopped giants like Apple, Fitbit and Samsung from aggressively pursuing regulatory approvals for a host of health tracking features. On Monday, Fitbit received the FDA greenlight for a new electrocardiogram application on its newest line of watches.
Apple’s latest device model, the Series 6 Apple Watch launched Tuesday, includes a new blood oxygen application that captures periodic background readings using infrared technology, competing with similar capabilities from Fitbit and Amazon Halo. The tool is aimed at helping users keep track of their cardiac and respiratory health.
Apple has partnered with the Seattle Flu Study, University of California Irvine and Anthem to develop research studies into how to prevent heart failure, better manage asthma and understand how minute changes in heart rate and blood oxygen might be early warning signs of disease, such as COVID-19. Fitbit is running a similar study.

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