Wearable Tech Could Help Make Your Employer a Healthcare Provider

By Jeff Heenan-Jalil

By now it’s clear that the structural shift in healthcare is well underway. One of the best articles I’ve read lately to capture this was Dave Chase’s Forbes piece: “Health Plan Industry’s Worst Nightmare: Employers Realizing They Are Actually The Insurance Company,” where he argues that “any company over 100 employees or so is an insurance company in all but name.” Pretty bold, but I wouldn’t say he’s far off.

What’s the monetary value of a health plan? Chase regularly advises payers on creative thinking about ways to capitalize on healthcare’s trillion-dollar transformation from volume to value and how to avoid the “zero-sum game thinking.” He goes on to argue that health plans really don’t do anything that can’t be done better by an algorithm. (Cue the entrance of Amazon Health.)

And health is, of course, no longer just about your yearly checkups and making your pantry’s contents reflect the food pyramid. People want to know more about their food, make exercise enjoyable, and balance not only physical health, but also mental and emotional health. It’s not so much just diet and exercise — it’s about holistic wellness programs.

Employers and insurance providers are taking note. If the concept of health is growing in individuals’ eyes, so must insurance. Standard health benefits (i.e., just your doctor visits, be it regular care or trips in response to a problem) are increasingly being replaced by more comprehensive wellness programs looking to drive better outcomes as patients and as customers. And one of the biggest catalysts behind this is not new policy or social change — it’s tech.

A Quick Look at Workplace Wellness

Wellness programs — adding in programming to make employees’ health goals more robust and attainable — are a popular way for employers to try to mitigate the rising costs of healthcare. So popular, in fact, that workplace wellness is now a nearly $40 billion industry worldwide, according to the Global Wellness Institute. To keep employees engaged, companies are constantly innovating new ways to implement wellness in the workplace.

Take a look at Indiana-based Draper, Inc. for example, which was voted 2014’s healthiest workplace in the United States by Healthiest Employers, LLC. It boasts an entire wellness park on company property. The organization holds companywide challenges for losing weight and hosts programs, such as Weight Watchers and Zumba classes, for its employees.

Zappos, which has always been admired for its dedication to workplace wellness, takes it a step further by offering free gym memberships and reimbursing employees who participate in marathons. Company leaders even take employees for fun fitness adventures, like laser tag, and give employees extra downtime in the form of Recess Tuesdays.

Because the ultimate objective of a health insurer’s wellness program is more specific, the success of these programs relies heavily on health-related data from patients. Today, obtaining and utilizing this data is possible at a larger scale than ever before, thanks to continuously evolving healthcare and consumer technologies.

Using Technology to Deliver …read more

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