Medicare Advantage Startup Devoted Health Teams Up with Apple

Medicare Advantage startup Devoted Health has begun offering its members Apple Watch coverage, CNBC reported earlier this week.

The move could set up interesting technology opportunities with future home care partners down the road.

While home care partnerships aren’t explicitly part of this news for Devoted Health, many MA plans have begun forming such inroads to better care for chronically ill members in the home setting. Plans began doing so in 2019 after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) changed supplemental benefits rules in 2018.

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Even more plans are projected to do so in 2020, thanks to additional CMS moves this year.

“We are pleased that CMS agrees that there is a wide variety of ways that older Americans can keep healthy, including fitness and nutrition classes, and activity monitoring devices such as the Apple Watch,” Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for Devoted Health, told HHCN in an emailed statement. “We are thrilled to be the first Medicare Advantage plan to collaborate with Apple … Using innovative technologies to improve the quality of care is core to our mission.”

Founded in 2017 by co-founders Ed and Todd Park, Devoted Health is a Medicare Advantage plan with 3,000 members and more than 200 employees across offices in Waltham, Massachusetts, and Miramar, Florida. The startup has had plenty of firepower to work with, having raised more than $360 million overall.

As part of Devoted Health’s coverage, the MA plan will cover up to $150 off the cost of an Apple Watch for its beneficiaries annually, CNBC reported.

Devoted Health and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) teaming up should come as no surprise to those who have observed the tech giant over the last few years. Apple has steadily added features to its devices aimed at senior care.

Last year, for example, the company added a fall detection feature to its Apple Watch Series 4. Meanwhile, its Apple Watch Series 5 offers specialized heart-monitoring features.

In addition to Devoted Health, Apple has reportedly been in talks with other private Medicare plans in pursuit of similar deals.

If Apple teams up with more MA plans, especially ones already contracting with home care providers, it could be a game-changer for agencies, basically allowing them to better track their client’s progress in the home in a turnkey remote-patient-monitoring capacity.

Many providers are open to the use of technology in the home, but questions surrounding reimbursement for devices and services still exist — though that’s is slowly changing.

For instance, Cincinnati-based FirstLight Home Care launched its own telehealth service using remote patient monitoring in early 2019.
“This partnership opens up new avenues of care that will allow us to add to our already excellent caregiving services,” FirstLight CEO Jeff Bevis previously told HHCN. “Our partnership with [HNC Virtual Solutions] is going to allow us to connect patients to clinicians using remote patient monitoring, which studies have shown can lead to enhanced quality of life, fewer hospital visits and more involvement from family members.”

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