Fitness Tracking: Healthcare’s Best Friend

At the start of January, most people subscribed to the common mantra: New Year, New You. But, now that the month is winding down, how many are still sticking to their goals – be it weight loss, general fitness, or just eating a bit healthier? As a provider or payer, how can you to bolster support and keep your population’s momentum going through the remainder of the year? And, what would be the most progressive method to do so?

In a recent Healthcare IT Guy’s blog, Shahid Shah argues that through the use of promoting fitness tracking devices, or wearables, payers, in conjunction with providers, can help incentivize populations to keep their goals. In doing so, wearables provide an unbeatable industry upside;  “[These] devices could allow the healthcare industry to better measure patient outcomes, monitor patient populations for emerging trends, and give preventative healthcare advice based on quantitative measurements (such as daily step counts or heart-rate).”1  All outcomes that have great potential for healthcare cost savings.

Incentivizing Health-Positive Behaviors

However, before the data rich benefits and potential cost savings can be attained, there is a hurdle to overcome. As identified within a recent Forbes healthcare article, “[Existing technology] in wearables has for the most part been utilized by tech aficionados and athletes who marvel in tracking personal health data—but not ultimately benefiting society at large.”2 Furthermore, there is a tendency of early adopters to move on to the next new thing after becoming bored with the technology.  For example, it was reported that “one third of Americans stop using their wearable devices within six months of buying the technology, and half of Americans owning some form of activity tracker no longer use it.”3 Yet, the wearables market is still growing and is anticipated to go “from 8 million in 2010 to 72 million by 2016.” What’s even more interesting is there are now more people open to technology than seen in prior decades.3  As wearables become more commonplace, the impetus for continued use becomes even greater and payers and providers are primed to create an environment for a user’s success to transpire.

It is time for a paradigm to shift; increased accessibility and continued promotion for the use of wearables for covered populations should be made a strategic imperative for payers and providers alike. Be it disease state management or staying in shape, a key component to population goal adherence is incentivizing good behaviors and de-incentivizing the bad. This can be done through campaigning and outreach to patient and member populations to help them stick to their plans by encouraging use and creating benefit incentives (e.g., discounts on premiums, subsidizing the purchase of wearables, etc.). By building an engaged population, payers and providers will be able to gather much needed data on outcomes and be better equipped to control healthcare costs. Those savings can then be passed back to the consumer to help perpetuate the positive cycle. For instance, Shah’s blog also noted that approximately 57 percent of a surveyed population indicated they were “more likely (or much more likely) to wear a fitness a tracker if they could receive lower health insurance premiums.”1

The win-win for wearables is unmistakable; payers and providers can help increase the chances of attaining the New You and, in return, they are provided both with needed data and a means to lower costs.

References

  1. Shah, Shahid, The Healthcare IT Guy “Health Focused Wearables have a Chance of Improving Patient Care”. October 24, 2014. http://www.healthcareguy.com/2014/10/20/health-focused-wearables-have-a-chance-of-improving-patient-care-if-innovators-craft-solutions-plus-providers-and-insurers-work-together-to-incentivize-and-pay-for-them/
  2. Gattler MD, Robert, Forbes “Wearable Technology and Digital Healthcare Strategies”. November 20, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2014/11/20/wearable-technology-and-digital-healthcare-strategies-should-shift-focus-to-chronic-medical-illness/
  3. Kelley, Megan C., “The Impact of Fitness Technology on Health Outcomes” (2014). CMC Senior Theses. Paper 917. http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cmc_theses/917

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