Earlier this year, insurance giant UnitedHealth Group announced partnerships with several vendors of mobile health apps. Some of those products were on display at United's booth, as was the new version 2.0 of OptumizeMe, a gaming/challenge smartphone app from the insurer's Optum subsidiary.
Still largely unproven in the marketplace, health challenges have become popular among app developers and others, like United, who are looking to keep people healthier and reduce health expenditures. OptumizeMe is a "platform for health achievement," according to Nick Martin, United's vice president of innovation, research, and development. Users can challenge each other to meet whatever health or fitness goals they specify, such as running 5 miles or lowering their cholesterol levels.
Like Zynga games that have captivated millions of Facebook users, OptumizeMe awards badges for achievement. "It's incredibly motivating," Martin said, while also acknowledging that "badges aren't for everyone."