Social gaming could help improve member wellness

As insurers have focused on improving their members' overall health and wellness, they've gradually been incorporating an innovative approach to achieve that goal--social gaming.

Insurers have been integrating the world of social gaming, in which people play games through social networking websites, by offering, for example, online team competitions as well as virtual and real-world rewards, reported The Wall Street Journal.

"Social gaming is a cutting edge, very dynamic space," Dan Brostek, head of member and consumer engagement at Aetna, previously told FierceHealthPayer. Last year, social gaming was a $1 billion market, as 62 million U.S. Internet users, or 27 percent of the online audience, played at least one social game monthly.

And because social gaming taps into people's love of winning prizes, such as lottery tickets, insurers can use that built-in feature to their benefit. "You use those to get people really engaged and excited," Bob Plourde, a vice president at UnitedHealth Group, told the WSJ.

Aetna has forged ahead in the social gaming milieu by partnering with social gaming company Mindbloom in May 2011. The insurer began offering a version of Mindbloom's Life Game, an interactive online site where players grow a virtual "life tree," to its members last fall to help encourage healthy habits. Since September, more than 50,000 registered Life Game users visit the site about four times each week and have completed more than 1.5 million commitments to improve their quality of life, according to Venture Beat.

Humana also offers a social game called HumanaVitality, which calculates participants' "Vitality Age" and suggests steps to improve their result. When users take the recommended steps, they receive points that can be redeemed for real prizes, including electronics and sports equipment, the WSJ noted.

Additionally, Cigna's members can play DailyFeats, an online program that rewards users for taking healthful steps, such as exercising or eating fruit and vegetables. Users can exchange those points for rewards, including store gift certificates or charity donations.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- see the Venture Beat article

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