Wearable tech takes aim at health care costs

March 27, 2016 8:26 am
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The catch: you need to wear a special activity tracker that monitors steps taken, "intensity" levels and other physical indicators/AFP
The catch: you need to wear a special activity tracker that monitors steps taken, “intensity” levels and other physical indicators/AFP

, WASHINGTON, United States, Mar 27 – Stroll around the office or neighborhood six times a day, and earn $1.50 (Sh152) toward your health insurance. Step up activity a bit more and bring the total to $1,400 (Sh142,000) annually.

The catch: you need to wear a special activity tracker that monitors steps taken, “intensity” levels and other physical indicators.

That’s the offer in a new insurance product marketed by UnitedHealthcare, the second-largest US health insurer, one of many programs aimed at boosting physical fitness and reducing health insurance costs for employers and employees.

“One of the greatest challenges we have is how to incentivize and motivate individuals to be accountable for their own heath and well- being,” said Steve Beecy of UnitedHealthcare.

He called the Trio Tracker device, introduced with technology partner Qualcomm, “a game-changer.”

Across the US, employers are stepping up the use of technology in “wellness” programs that encourage healthier lifestyles.

Wellness programs aren’t new, but technology like activity trackers has transformed them with more precise measurements and automated uploads to verify activity.

A survey of more than 200 large employers by the National Business Group on Health found 37 percent used activity trackers in 2015 and another 37 percent planned to adopt the technology in coming years.

“There is a strong interest (in the use of technology) because of the impact on an employer’s long-term health care costs,” said Scott Marcotte of Xerox Human Resources, which participated in the study.

Makers of activity trackers such as Fitbit and Jawbone have been expanding their efforts to be part of corporate wellness programs.

One of the biggest tie-ups was announced last year when US retail giant Target said it would offer free or discounted Fitbit trackers to its more than 300,000 employees.

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