By D.P. Morrissey
The New Year’s resolution: Embraced by some, discarded by many, dreaded by nearly all. As human beings, we love fresh starts, and there’s no better time than the start of a new year to take stock of one’s health, happiness, goals and shortcomings. Improving personal health is the No. 1 New Year’s resolution—and it’s also the most discarded resolution. All those new abdominal contraptions, treadmills, elixirs and must-have weight-loss machines? Most get used once and are then relegated to a forgotten corner of a room, collecting dust and bits of laundry. But there are some excellent ways to gauge one’s personal health without a huge investment, and technology plays an essential role in doing so. Wearable technology helps people monitor their activity, heart rate, sleep quality and more. The wearable industry is skyrocketing, and Stuart Slutzky, chief of Product Innovation for HumanaVitality, sees first-hand how wearable tech can improve personal health, encourage physical activity and lessen the cost of health insurance.
CIO Insight: How has wearable tech changed the way people approach their personal health?
Slutzky: Wearable technology has allowed people to quantify their daily health actions. This “quantified self” movement has provided the awareness for people to increase their physical activity and improve other various lifestyle habits such as diet and sleep. Wearable technology has also allowed people to connect with friends and healthcare providers who can support their journey to improved health.
CIO Insight: Does Humana encourage its customers to use any type of wearable tech?
Slutzky: HumanaVitality is Humana’s platform for motivating and rewarding our members to engage in a broad range of healthy activities. The HumanaVitality program is made available to nearly four million members who are offered rewards for participating in over 30 verified activities, including fitness activities such as taking 10,000 steps per day. Members are also encouraged to participate in challenges and competitions (including step competitions) that Humana administers using wearable tech data. Rewards include fitness devices, gift cards and reduced health insurance premiums. HumanaVitality has a device agnostic approach with over 70 integrated devices to give consumer choice in technology options and price points. We’ve integrated with well-known brands such as Fitbit, Apple Health, Garmin, Polar and Jawbone.
CIO Insight: Does Humana use wearable tech to gain more insight into how people lead their lives (how and when they eat, exercise, heart rate, etc.?)
Slutzky: Yes. Humana currently uses wearable technology to track steps, heart rate, calories burned and sleep. This information is used to identify ways for members to be supported and motivated to improve their health.
CIO Insight: Has wearable tech impacted the health insurance field? How so?
Slutzky: Wearable technology has provided Humana with the ability to seamlessly track member activity in a verified way. “Verified activities” are one of the foundations of our HumanaVitality program, which allows us to reward members and can be linked to reduced healthcare costs. The savings are shared back with members in the form of rewards including reduced healthcare premiums. In addition, technology is being used to track and engage members during key moments of influence to better manage various health conditions.
CIO Insight: Does wearable tech have the capability to enhance quality of life?
Slutzky: Yes. We conducted a three-year longitudinal study of Humana associates (employees) that showed significant healthcare and productivity savings for associates that engaged in our HumanaVitality program. Healthcare savings have increased steadily to 18 percent and sick days have been reduced by 44 percent for engaged employees in the third year of our study.
CIO Insight: Are you optimistic about the future of wearable tech?
Slutzky: Absolutely. Humana has seen a significant increase in the use of wearable technologies since we launched HumanaVitality four years ago. HumanaVitality members have ordered over 250,000 devices from our rewards mall. In July 2015, we rewarded over 100,000 members (under the age of 65) for verified workouts that met key milestones such as 10,000 steps per day. During the same month, these members logged over 1.3 million verified workouts that met key milestones, representing an increase of over 300 percent in the last 18 months.
CIO Insight: Can you think of other ways in which wearable tech can improve health care?
Slutzky: At Humana we see significant opportunity to reward members for using other tracking devices – such as sleep monitors and weight scales – and see the integration of health trackers as a key part of our future strategy. Technology will play an integral role in managing the health of members managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes and congestive heart failure, and avoiding significant health events.
D.P. Morrissey is a freelance writer who covers business and technology. He lives in New York City.