Key points from recent developments this year include:

  • Apple is in talks with private Medicare plans about getting Apple Watches into the hands — or on the wrists — of millions of people over the age of 65.
  • Apple has previously signed a deal with insurance giants Aetna and United Healthcare about subsidizing the cost of the watch.
  • Devoted Health says it is the first Medicare Advantage plan to offer Apple Watch as a benefit to its members.
  • Its marketing materials show that it will help members pay for the cost of the device up to $150.

Further reading:

I can see this as a win for several players:

  • Apple: more profit and sales for the Apple Watch
  • Insurance companies: more members joining, and retention of its members

The big question is, will customers benefit?

The Apple Watch has come a long way. The latest version finally has an always-on display. They have heart monitoring features and have gotten a lot praise for their life-saving measures including SOS and detecting abnormal heart rhythms. However, one MAJOR barrier I still see with this watch is its battery life. They last about 1-2 days on a full charge.

Do you see seniors charging yet another device and adding it to their routine?

The device is essentially useless if out of battery. In my opinion, this device is way overpriced for what it does to last only 1-2 days. Take for example the heart rate monitoring feature. If the user is charging the Apple Watch on the nightstand, how can it monitor their heartrate? There is a moment of vulnerability that I believe should not be allowed if it is to be advertised or perceived as a health care device. For it to be a valuable healthcare piece of equipment, the battery needs to last much longer. I understand we are somewhat at the limits of battery technology.

With wearables being more popular in healthcare, other devices should be looked at as well. This is a wonderful opportunity for the R&D of new devices to compete with Apple. Currently, Android wearables are not up to par. I personally use one by Amazfit, and while I do not use it for its health monitoring features, it actually has a 30-day battery life. That means I only have to charge it 12 times a year! One thing that Apple does, is lead other companies to follow in its path, for better or worse.

Other limitations:

  • Difficult readability due to small screen
  • Requires fine motor use and gestures.
  • Only works with iPhone

 

Occupational Therapy Role in (Wearable) Apple Watch Use for Seniors

  • Facilitating habits and routines for charging the device overnight.
  • Provide environmental modification and adaptations (such as multiple chargers) to ensure devices stay charged.
  • Provide seniors with resources for education on device use (Youtube, Apple Genius).
    • Configure the device for optimal sensory input benefit (visual vs. vibration vs. auditory).
  • Promote ROM and fine motor use for small devices.
  • Provide visual-perceptual interventions and adaptations to read small screens.