- UnitedHealthcare is partnering with Fitbit to add the Fitbit Charge 2 fitness device to its UnitedHealthcare Motion health program for employers.
- Participants will be able to earn up to $1,500 in health savings account or health reimbursement credits each year by using the Fitbit Charge 2 to track their progress in meeting specific activity goals.
- UnitedHealthcare believes that by increasing the participation rate of employees in such programs to two-thirds, employers can significantly decrease their healthcare costs.
In this new partnership, UnitedHealthcare is adding a financial incentive for health plan members, as well as taking advantage of the growing popularity of wearable fitness devices.
Fitbit previously partnered with Medtronic on an app that captures data from a patient’s continuous glucose monitor, as well as activity data from the wearable, to help the patient better understand how exercise affects their blood sugar levels. This is just the latest development in the corporate world’s mission to improve health and lower employee health costs, increasingly with the help of technology.
According to the Rand Corporation, American workplace wellness programs are a $6 billion industry, and many companies view them as a valuable workforce investment. However, data about actual cost savings have yielded inconsistent results. Some employees are skeptical about how voluntary such programs really are, but the courts have supported employers’ use of incentives to encourage participation in workplace wellness programs.
A Rand study that examined 10 years of data showed that disease management programs (typically designed to improve compliance and reduce hospital admissions) led to employer cost savings of about $136 per member per month, but wellness initiatives—despite much higher participation—led to only slight savings.
Given the mixed success of employee wellness initiatives, companies may increasingly turn to partnerships like the one between United Healthcare and Fitbit to better motivate participants while capturing valuable data for employers.