Aetna reportedly taps Walmart executive to head venture with Apple

wearable smartwatch
Aetna is not the only major insurer to turn to wearables in a bid to help members get healthier.

Becoming the latest health insurer to turn to the retail sector for top talent, Aetna has reportedly tapped a leader from Walmart’s health division to take charge of its joint venture with Apple.

That leader is Ben Wanamaker, who directs strategy and business development for Walmart’s health, wellness and e-commerce businesses, according to an article from CNBC, citing people familiar with the matter. The publication said Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the hire.

Fellow insurer Anthem has also scooped up retail talent. Patrick McIntyre, Anthem’s senior vice president of healthcare analytics, said previously that much of the company’s data science department was brought in from the retail industry.

And David Poole, Anthem’s staff vice president for consumer experience, has detailed how the insurer incorporated lessons from consumer-focused companies like Amazon and Harley Davidson to overhaul its customer service practices.

The Aetna and Apple partnership, meanwhile, has been going on since 2016, when the two companies announced they had launched a venture to create “deeply integrated health apps” for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.

In August, news surfaced that Aetna and Apple were discussing a deal to make the Apple Watch available to the insurer’s 23 million members. During that series of meetings, top executives discussed issues such as protecting patient data and the costs associated with providing Apple Watches to enrollees.

Aetna is not the only major insurer to turn to wearables in a bid to help members get healthier. In 2016, UnitedHealth debuted a program in which it provides some employer-based plan enrollees with custom-designed fitness trackers that feed data into the UnitedHealthcare Motion app and allow wearers to earn reimbursement account credits based on their activity levels.

Wearable devices also play a role in HumanaVitality, the insurer’s wellness and rewards program—both to help participants track their activity levels and as rewards for achieving their goals.