Wearable fitness trackers and other tech solutions have grown in popularity over the last several years — and 2017 is expected to be the year they start playing a major role in health insurance.


“Wearables companies like Fitbit and Apple with its Apple Watch have long talked about the ability for their devices to play a key role in the healthcare system,” writes Seth McNew for The Motley Fool. “More companies and insurers are including wearables as part of an overall health and wellness initiative to keep employees healthy — often giving perks such as reduced health insurance costs to those who participate.”


Wearables are increasingly being used to make wellness programs more effective and measurable.


“Technology is taking the guesswork out of employee wellness programs,” writes Alan Goforth for BenefitsPro. “Nearly two-thirds of carriers surveyed expect wearable technologies to have a significant impact on their industry, according to Accenture’s annual Technology Vision report.”


Fitbit has already partnered with health insurers and employers for years in order to help quantify wellness programs. Now, health insurer Aetna is partnering with Apple to subsidize Apple Watches for its customers, write Zachary Tracer and Alex Webb for BloombergTechnology.


“The health insurer, which covers about 23 million people in the U.S., is developing apps for Apple devices that will help consumers remember to take their medicines, get a refill on prescriptions or contact a doctor,” Tracer and Webb write. “The applications, which will be available next year, will also help members understand their insurance benefits and use Apple’s Wallet feature to pay bills.”


Meanwhile, look for other technological influences on insurance.


“Future applications for include smart pill bottles, “telemedicine,” remote diagnostics and remote surgery,” according to Electronics360.


One example: A new app that can help parents screen young children for developmental disorders. It’s called Cognoa for Employers and has a decidedly HR-focused purpose, writes Amanda Eisenberg for Employee Benefit News.


Early detection can “cut down on future healthcare costs and missed workdays,” Eisenberg writes. “The app would be included in a benefits package for parents to assess how their young children are reaching developmental benchmarks and screens for autism, speech delays and ADHD.”


Early detection can lead to better care, and therefore minimize disruptions to a parent’s career.
“Cognoa’s machine learning-based platform, which has been running for two years and has data from more than 140,000 children screened by the app, attempts to minimize the number of doctor’s visits that could leave an employee to take time off,” Eisenberg writes.


As technology continues to play a role in health care, it will continue to affect both costs to consumers and the market as a whole, McNew writes. “For wearables users, the benefits are obvious in that you might save on your health insurance or get reimbursement credits for completing activity goals,” he writes. “Better health and cost savings are a win-win.”