Earlier this year, Apple announced that it was establishing a network of clinics near its headquarters in Cupertino, California to provide primary health care services to its employees in Santa Clara County. The AC Wellness program has been on a hiring spree since then, bringing more than 40 health professionals on board, CNBC reports, citing a LinkedIn search. The hires include a number of former employees of Crossover Health, which used to operate Apple’s onsite clinics in the Bay Area and still runs them elsewhere, and which Apple had considered acquiring before deciding to design its own clinics instead. In keeping with the name of the initiative, these early hires indicate that AC Wellness is going to be more than just a medical clinic, suggesting a more holistic focus on wellbeing and helping employees maintain healthy lifestyles:
Most of the team hired so far aren’t doctors. In fact, the hires skew toward wellness professionals like nutritionists, exercise specialists and nurse practitioners. A lot of the hires have a background in alternative or functional medicine and there’s even a “wellness lead” — Jennifer Gibson, a former head of coaching at Vida Health, a health-tech start-up. Gibson, according to her profile, is passionate about things like nutrition, stress management and smoking cessation, which aren’t always offered at primary care practices.
The company has also brought on at least a half dozen “care navigators,” who don’t have medical degrees but do have a background in directing patients to the most appropriate care. In some cases, that might involve a followup conversation with a specialist or a lifestyle change that might alleviate the problem on its own. That could reduce costs as these navigators can better ensure that Apple employees and their dependents aren’t getting unnecessary care.
As large companies take on a more active role in managing their employees’ health care, some are adding services like Apple’s “care navigators” to help employees make more informed choices about care options and avoid testing or treatment they don’t really need. In General Motors’ newly-announced partnership with Henry Ford Health System, for example, these services will be incorporated into a direct-to-employer health plan offered to GM employees in and around Detroit. Dr. Atul Gawande, the physician, professor, and author who was tapped in June to lead the health care partnership launched earlier this year by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, has extensively criticized the amount of unnecessary medical care Americans are subjected to.
A new survey by the National Business Group on Health shows that 49 percent of US employers are getting more actively involved in changing how health care is delivered to their employees, and that more are turning to value-based approaches to health care over the traditional group insurance and fee-for service models. The survey also found that most employers believe virtual tools will play a major role in the future of health care delivery, with 95 percent saying they had already implemented telemedicine systems for minor, non-urgent health services, and 51 percent saying that implementing more virtual solutions was their top healthcare initiative for the coming year.
Not surprisingly, digital technology is also a major focal point of Apple’s AC Wellness initiative: Many of its new hires have backgrounds at health technology startups and the program is expected to serve as a laboratory for new consumer-facing health products Apple is developing as it makes its own forays into that industry.