Healthcare // Clinical Information Systems
Commentary
11/10/2010
03:11 PM
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Technology To Promote A Healthier Workforce

Virgin HealthMiles' web-based health incentive platform is helping some employers get workers moving.

People "tend to overestimate their physical activity and underestimate how much they eat," Pawlik said. However, with workers ability to download and electronically record their actual biometric readings and evidence of exercise, there's more accountability.

About 61% of Protective's workforce is enrolled in the Virgin Health Miles program. Participants get an UBS-enabled pedometer and personalized online health management account via a web portal to track their progress, including the number of steps walked each day.

On-site, desktop kiosks in Protective offices are available for employee to take biometric readings such as their blood pressure, weight and body fat measurements. Employees get credit for using the kiosks each month, and the points they accrue from the steps they walk, run or achieve through aerobics add up. In a 12-month period, employees can earn up to $400 in cash or choices of gift cards, which are also available via the Virgin HealthMiles platform.

While employers like Protective do not see data related to specific individuals, aggregate data reports let companies track how they're workers at large are doing.

It's too soon for Protective to calculate how much in healthcare costs the company is saving through these efforts to promote a healthier, more physically active workforce, said Pawlik.

The improved outcome for people with hypertension who lower their blood pressure or diabetics who lose weight is often long-term, such as avoiding serious health complications down the line. But with a workforce that has little turnover, the healthier habits being promoted by Protective could very well translate to healthcare cost savings for the company as well, she said.

"If I'm a diabetic and my blood sugar drops, the immediate benefit might be a reduction in the medicines I take," said Pawlik. "But long term it's about improving my health overall," she said. "The technology provides us with a means to reach out to employees," especially to those that aren't based near the company's Alabama headquarters, she said.

"Before you could never validate healthy activity, now I can," she said.

How much help (and incentive) do you think employers should provide workers in achieving and maintaining healthier life styles? Is your company utilizing technology to assist your workers' wellness? Let us know.

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