Blue Shield of California social gaming 'sticks' with consumers

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the FierceHealthPayer eBook Consumer Engagement in the Post-Reform Era: Payer Strategies for Engaging Members. To read more, download the full eBook.

Payers have been putting social gaming strategies to work, enticing patients to become more involved in their own health and well-being.

Blue Shield of California has been using social gaming to motivate its employees since 2008 when it launched Wellvolution, a program that uses incentives, games and social media to promote good health.

"The most popular features of Wellvolution are those that make it easy, social and fun to engage in wellness," says Bryce Williams, director of Wellvolution for Blue Shield of California. "Programs that use social media and gamification are particularly appealing."

Wellvolution's most popular initiatives are Daily Challenge, a newly launched program that allows employees to join colleagues, friends and family to complete a simple daily challenge to promote well-being toward healthy behaviors. Participants can earn health points or badges.

It also has seen success with the fourth installment of Shape Up Shield, a social-media-fueled challenge that uses an online platform to let employees form teams, post comments in forums, set team and personal fitness goals and give virtual "high-fives" for encouragement.

In eight weeks, nearly a thousand Blue Shield employees walked, ran and hiked more than 350 million steps, or 175,000 miles.

Williams also found the program is "sticky" with 60 percent of users returning for subsequent challenges, viral with 40 percent of users new to the platform and popular with 40 percent of all Blue Shield employees participating in this offering in 2011. A social gaming program's stickiness, or ability to get users to return to the site or app again and again, is vital for health plan success, Williams says.

Since Blue Shield launched Wellvolution, it has seen improvements in diet and lifestyle choices, such as regular physical activity up 33 percent and smoking prevalence falling by roughly 50 percent to only 6 percent. It also has seen significant reductions in cholesterol and high-blood pressure, promising healthcare cost and productivity trends indicative of a 3:1 return on investment.

"Changing lifelong habits can be hard enough--slogging through dry, boring wellness programs shouldn't make it worse," Williams says. "That's why we try to make it easy, social and fun for our employees to stay engaged. We are big believers in the power of leveraging social connections for improved health outcomes and will continue to invest in that approach."

To read the rest of this and other articles, download FierceHealthPayer's free eBook, Consumer Engagement in the Post-Reform Era: Payer Strategies for Engaging Members.

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