Apple continues to expand its circle of potential HealthKit partners with dialogs now happening with both Humana and UnitedHealth Group. Both companies are big-name health insurance providers, and the talks could mean Apple is hoping HealthKit will be part of the incentive programs carriers offer for subscribers who actively work to stay healthy.
HealthKit is a feature in the soon-to-ship iOS 8 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch designed to make it easier for users to collect personal health and fitness data from tracking devices and share the information they choose with healthcare providers. Assuming insurance providers are interested in collecting fitness data from subscribers, that could include the number of steps walked each day or week, heart rate, weight, and more.
Offering subscribers fitness-related incentives, such as discounted rates, isn't a new idea, and some companies have already started using devices from Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike and other device makers as a tool for tracking just how active their subscribers are. These programs help keep insurance costs down because subscribers tend to be healthier.
"Being more active results in better health. That's indisputable," Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom told Bloomberg.
There is, however, a downside because providers could potentially deny coverage based on fitness tracker data. If a subscriber fails to meet a minimum number of steps over a certain period of time, for example, their insurance provider could deem them a risk because they aren't active enough.
Apple's involvement in the healthcare system won't stop insurers from potentially abusing subscriber data, but it could help ensure the information they get is timely and as accurate as possible. HealthKit-compliant devices will feed the data they track back to user's iPhones and automatically transmit that information to insurance providers. That would cut out the possibility of data being miskeyed into insurance systems, and remove the possibility of anyone forgetting to submit information.
Apple is also talking with healthcare providers in hopes of getting them onboard with HealthKit. The Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente have already partnered with Apple, and talks are underway with Mount Sinai, Johns Hopkins, and the Cleveland Clinic.
While sharing data with insurers and health care providers is one of the features HealthKit offers, it isn't a requirement. HealthKit's ability to collect data from multiple devices means your iPhone can become your own personal health and fitness tracking center without passing on the information it gathers to anyone else.
HealthKit, along with its companion app Health, will be available as part of iOS 8 when it ships in the coming weeks. iOS 8 will be a free upgrade and will support the iPhone 4s or newer, the iPad 3 or newer, the iPad mini and Retina Display iPad mini, and the fifth generation iPod touch or newer.