4 Ways in which mHealth is already disrupting Health Insurance

Posted on: 11.10.2016 Tags:



Do you imagine a future in which you receive a push notification on your smartphone offering you a discount on your insurance premium for consistently exercising for 30 minutes a day for the past month? How about the other way, a warning that your insurance premium will rise if you don’t exercise enough?

Professional services networks such as PWC(1) and EY highlighted the role of mobile technologies transforming the insurance industry through reports and analyses. In fact, even more explicitly, EY in “The future of health insurance” specifically outline mHealth technologies as one of the main six trends disrupting health insurance alongside the big data revolution and the chronic disease crisis. Evidence is pointing towards better outcomes in personalised medicine and mHealth together with the use of apps and wearables.

The Use of Wearables in Wellness Plans

Aetna at a market value cap of $40.3B recently forged an alliance with Apple(2), one of the world’s most valuable technology companies. They announced in September that they will be subsidizing customers “a significant portion” of the cost of buying an Apple Watch(3). Aetna is one of the many insurance companies to venture into the realm of mHealth, yet it stands out not only because of their subsidy but because they plan to revolutionise their consumers’ health experience by combining the power of iOS Apps, Apple’s Hardware and Aetna’s analytics-based wellness and care management programs. They even started off by offering the Apple Watch at no cost to its nearly 50,000 employees. Talk about mHealth directly changing an insurance company.

Three billion mHealth App Downloads and counting

In the latest mHealth Developer Economics Report by research2guidance(4), the demand for mHealth apps is increasing every year, with an increase of over 35% from the previous years and in a separate blog post, the same research company believes that Health Insurance Companies can do much more, offering the “5 Imperatives”(5) for Health Insurance Companies to thrive within the mHealth market. In fact, the focus of these imperatives is to encourage insurance companies not to offer a wide portfolio of applications but to offer higher quality, functional and reliable apps which will help unlock reward based incentive schemes and apply best practice rules.

Sensors and apps are everywhere

You’re seeing them everywhere and they’re not going to stop anytime soon. The wearable tech market is estimated to be worth $34 Billion by 2020, as noted by Paul Lamkin on Forbes(6) through CCS Insights(7). Insurance companies simply can’t avoid such explosive growth and as much as possible, they need to make the most out of it to keep offering great value. Alliances such as the one between Aetna and Apple are a step in the right direction, but how will insurance companies provide benefit to other wearable device owners? How will they insure that they will reach to people who are dependant on different device ecosystems?

The Big Data Revolution

The term ‘Big Data’ in itself at times can be quite generic, but in simple layman language, it basically points to the creation of insightful and meaningful data sets from multiple sources. Mobile technologies such as wearables and mHealth apps offering a data source which could potentially provide health insurance companies with real-time data.

This is currently not a serious big threat to the insurance business, but what will happen in 5 years’ time when technology keeps on advancing. Are they ready to embrace mHealth as an integral part of their payment models? Will there be any ethical conundrums to take into consideration? The ball is in our court, as patients and professionals to empower insurance companies to listen to their customers and provide us with payment models which are further personalised and reflective of our efforts to be in control of our health. So let’s follow up on discussion at WoHIT 2016 (#WoHIT) in the vibrant city of Barcelona.


1.        PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Insurance 2020: Turning change into opportunity [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2016 Oct 6]. Available from: www.pwc.com/insurance

2.        King H. Aetna insurance will subsidize the Apple Watch - Sep. 28, 2016 [Internet]. CNN Money. 2016 [cited 2016 Jun 10]. Available from: http://money.cnn.com/2016/09/28/technology/aetna-apple-watch/

3.        Aetna. News Releases - Investor Info | Aetna [Internet]. Aetna Media team. 2016 [cited 2016 Oct 6]. Available from: http://investor.aetna.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=110617&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2...

4.        Research2Guidance. mHealth App Development Economic 2015. Research2Guidance [Internet]. 2015;5(November):35. Available from: http://research2guidance.com/product/mhealth-app-developer-economics-2016/

5.        Aylett S. 5 Imperatives Health Insurance companies must adopt if they are to become successful mHealth app publishers | mhealtheconomics.com [Internet]. Research2Guidance. 2016 [cited 2016 Oct 6]. Available from: http://mhealtheconomics.com/5-imperative-health-insurance-companies-must...

6.        Lamkin P. Wearable Tech Market To Be Worth $34 Billion By 2020 [Internet]. Forbes. 2016 [cited 2016 Oct 6]. Available from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/paullamkin/2016/02/17/wearable-tech-market-t...

7.        CCS Insight. CCS Insight [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2016 Oct 6]. Available from: http://www.ccsinsight.com/

Stefan Buttigieg

Stefan Buttigieg

Specialist Trainee

in Public Health Medicine, Malta