Humana encourages members to use wearable technology to improve health

Wearable technology, such as Fitbit and Apple Watch, have a role to play in helping motivate people to engage in healthy activities, a HumanaVitality executive said in an interview with CIO Insight.

Wearable technology can improve members' personal health, encourage physical activity and lessen the cost of health insurance, said Stuart Slutzky, chief of product innovation for HumanaVitality, an entity set up by Humana to offer its members wellness programs.

HumanaVitality motivates and rewards members to engage in a wide range of healthy activities and has seen first-hand how the use of wearables can help, Slutzky said. The trend has impacted the insurance field, which could find more ways to use the new technology in the future.

Wearable technology has allowed people to quantify their daily health activities, Slutzky said, making people more aware of their physical activity and other lifestyle habits such as diet and sleep. It also allows people to connect with friends and healthcare providers who can offer them support, he said.

HumanaVitality is offered to nearly four million members and encourages them with rewards to participate in over 30 activities, including fitness activities such as taking 10,000 steps per day. Humana offers challenges and competitions for members, which it tracks using data from wearable devices, he said. It rewards members with fitness devices, gift cards and lower health insurance premiums. The program uses 70 devices, including well-known brands such as Fitbit, Apple Health, Garmin, Polar and Jawbone.

Humana relies on wearable technology to track members' steps, heart rate, calories burned and sleep, and then uses the information to identify ways members can improve their health, he said. A three-year study of Humana employees showed those who participated in HumanaVitality and remained engaged in year three resulted in an 18 percent increase in healthcare savings and reduction in sick days by 44 percent.

HumanaVitality members have ordered more than 250,000 devices through its rewards program and Slutzky says wearable technology can improve healthcare. "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," he said.

Humana has also created a mobile-app lab, its Digital Experience Center, which employs software development focused on encouraging members to adopt healthier lifestyles, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the interview