UnitedHealth adds Samsung, Garmin fitness trackers to wellness program

UnitedHealthcare’s wellness program for employer-sponsored health plan members has expanded the range of wearable devices that participants are allowed to use.

Fitness trackers from Garmin and Samsung will now be integrated into UnitedHealthcare Motion, according to an announcement from the company. 

Initially, the wellness program relied solely on custom-designed wearable devices to track participants’ steps. However, with the addition of a “bring-your-own-device” capability, devices from FitBit and Striiv have since been integrated into the program. 

Now, Samsung’s Gear Fit2 Pro and Gear Sport, along with Garmin’s vívosmart 3 have been added into the mix. UnitedHealthcare’s partner in the program, technology company Qualcomm, integrated and validated the devices through its medical-grade connectivity platform, which features safeguards to help keep data secure.

All of the devices are also customized to allow users to see on their wrists how they are tracking against the program’s three daily F.I.T. goals—frequency, intensity and tenacity.

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“We are expanding the portfolio of available devices to make UnitedHealthcare Motion more flexible, convenient and consumer friendly,” Sam Ho, M.D., UnitedHealthcare’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.

UnitedHealthcare Motion participants who already own one of the Garmin or Samsung devices may be able to use them with the program. For those who don’t already have a device, the integrated activity trackers are available at no additional charge or through upgrade options that allow them to buy the devices at “preferred prices.”

Since the start of UnitedHealthcare Motion, the company said, participants have collectively walked more than 130 billion steps and earned more than $19 million in rewards. 

Friday's announcement about the insurer's wellness program comes on the heels of UnitedHealth's debut of a data-driven health navigator program for Medicare Advantage members, which aims to incorporate data from wearables and other digital therapeutics.

Meanwhile, UnitedHealth is far from the only insurer to turn to mobile devices in a bid to keep members healthier. Aetna and Apple have been involved in a partnership since last year, and this summer they were reportedly discussing a deal to make the Apple Watch available to the insurer’s 23 million members. 

On the provider side of the healthcare system, though, making use of wearable-generated data for clinical uses is more of a challenge. One of the issues is that doctors may have trouble integrating that information into their electronic health record systems. But one expert predicted that as the wearable market continues to grow, EHR vendors and third-party software providers will find ways to close the gap.