While it's common these days for insurers to dangle incentives in front of members, some are going completely out-of-the-box in an effort to attract new members, promote healthy living and increase real, long-term consumer engagement.
So how are companies trying to stand out and be successful in a world where perks and wellness programs are practically standard? There are two answers. One: Make it pay. Two: Use technology to personalize the experience.
"We're seeing the more innovative organizations driving engagement and behavior change through the use of health benefit rewards (e.g. premium reductions, HRA contributions)," digital health strategist Michelle Snyder tells Healthcare Dive.
"They are also starting to recognize the value of cognitive computing to provide a truly personalized experience for the consumer based on their health status and benefit type, as well as their personal interests and internal/external motivations," Snyder says.
As CMO for Welltok, Snyder notes the example of Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealthcare sponsoring Welltok's Health Optimization Platform, CaféWell, for the state of Colorado to provide a single platform that links its statewide health initiatives to rewards programs. In just a few months, more than 40% of eligible members participated in multiple health activities and earned more than $100,000 in rewards.
"Part of the secret to the program's success was aligning the right incentives and rewards with the right actions and behaviors to drive engagement," Snyder says.
Here are some of the ways insurers are taking engagement to the next level:
Several major insurers have partnered with food chains to provide members with discounts or coupons for pre-approved foods, as Healthcare Dive has previously reported.
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a not-for-profit health plan in the Northeast, takes another twist on this idea. The insurer utilizes the NutriSavings program to allow members to scan their groceries with a phone app while they're shopping, so they can access a health score for each item and make smarter decisions. Then, shoppers have their total health score tallied at checkout. They can get up to $20 per month for participating in the program and earning a high enough average score on their groceries.
Paying for workouts (and penalizing for missing them)
Pact Health—the first company to start as a health app and then become a health plan—offers a deal where members can gain or lose $5 from their deductible for each workout they make or miss, as determined via smartphone GPS or fitness monitoring device.
According to the company, their data show that the real incentive is the risk of losing money, and that the key to such a penalty is the chance at redemption, so participants don't become frustrated with the program.
"What gets you to do the very difficult thing of getting your butt off the couch and into the gym isn't the couple of bucks you'll earn," CEO Yifan Zhang told Forbes—it's the couple of bucks you'll lose. "A loss is three times more motivating than a gain," she says.
Integrated technology from wearables, to apps, to telemedicine
Oscar, a startup health insurance provider based in New York, offers all of their subscribers a free Misfit Flash fitness tracker and provides daily goals. The aim is to motivate subscribers to increase from a low goal of 2,000 steps per day to a higher goal that's likely to impact health, up to 10,000 steps per day.
If subscribers meet their personalized step goals, Oscar gives them $1 in Amazon credit per day, up to a maximum of $240 per year.
The company hopes that adding fitness tracking to their app will help encourage users to interact with it daily, and utilize its other features such as provider cost comparisons. One of their other tech toppers: Oscar’s plans include complimentary telemedicine visits, and with a push of a button, customers can speak with a physician for advice and prescriptions.
"We're using technology and design to make healthcare simple, intuitive, and human," the company's website states. "In other words, the kind of healthcare we want for ourselves."