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Connected to Cash: Optimizing the Use of Medical Devices and Consumer Health Technology

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Weaving medical devices and consumer health technology into our daily lives has great potential to improve the health of our nation, with the right incentives.

There’s no arguing that the self-tracking and wearables arena has reached a tipping point – 52 percent of consumers are interested in buying wearable health trackers (2014 Accenture Digital Consumer Tech Survey) and 42 percent of device owners report using them every day (CEA 2013).

According to a Brookings Institute analysis, remote monitoring technologies could save the U.S. healthcare system $197 billion between 2010 and 2035 by measuring and monitoring everything from heart activity with electrocardiogram data, to daily activity, sleep, calories and biometric data.

We will have our body wired and are tracking every step we take, all in the cloud (read Next in Tech). In many cases, the use of these tools are passive – measuring and passing data on without the need for the consumer to “want” to do anything. For some, it’s becoming an accessory like the recently announcement Tory Burch Fitbit. But how do we make consumers really engaged in using these tools vs a trend, and how can we initiate healthy habbits?

According to Marco Della Torre VP of Product Science, Basis Science, Inc., “80% of health apps are abandoned within two weeks.” (7th Annual USC Body Computing Conference PDF here). Because many of these products operate without consumer intention, we cannot fall into the “build it and they will come” mentality. The industry must address how we truly engage and create sustained healthy behaviors.

So in addition to great product design, how can we optimize with this growing suite of technology? Incentive driven healthcare may be the answer. Consider this. A recent survey of 2,000 adults by Harris Interactive poll found that many patients would share their personal data with insurers and take specific health actions if they received rewards such as lower premiums or gift cards. Types of data to be shared include lifestyles and medical tests (e.g. blood pressure, genetic tests) they undergo. Three-quarters said they’d have a blood pressure check, while 68 percent were willing to undergo blood sugar or cholesterol tests. Just over half said they’d take part in a health plan-monitored exercise regimen to lose weight or control diabetes. Nearly 40 percent would follow a specific diet to help lower their blood pressure or cholesterol if incentivized. The availability of this information can help population health managers design health optimization programs for their members by pairing activities with rewards.

While many have been exploring the programs and mobile/health applications to help individuals live better lives, financial rewards may bridge the gap to actual meaningful utilization. The timing is ripe. Under ObamaCare, companies can spend 30 percent (and in the case of smoking) 50 percent of annual insurance premiums on rewards for healthy behavior. According to Healthstat, health rewards is expected to be one of the top 5 health IT trends in 2014. At Welltok, we have seen the positive impact of both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives for consumers to step away from their desk to start logging steps on their pedometers.

The timing couldn’t be better for healthy habits to take hold with the explosion of connected devices and the growth of incentives. Now it’s up to consumers to power on and go.

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