‘We see activity trackers and wearable sensors becoming increasingly more common’
MINNETONKA, Minn. – Wearables, sensors and other home health technologies are becoming ubiquitous as part of wellness programs offered through health insurers. Paul Sterling, vice president of emerging products for United Healthcare, shared his thoughts on how these technologies are impacting coverage and care.
HHTN: How do these devices engage members in managing their own health?
STERLING: They’re effective in providing accurate information in real-time about peoples’ health markers, such as blood pressure, glucose levels and daily activities. By analyzing this type of information, wellness programs can more effectively support people as they seek to maintain or improve their health. People who use wearable devices may be better able to monitor and hold themselves accountable for their physical activity.
HHTN: Why do health insurers include these technologies in the wellness programs they offer?
STERLING: Health plans are rolling out various programs including these new technologies that can improve member engagement and enhance the remote monitoring of care. By incorporating this type of technology, the programs may enable people to improve health outcomes and reduce care costs, while also improving member engagement and satisfaction.
HHTN: How do these wellness programs leverage the use of these devices?
STERLING: UnitedHealthcare, for example, has introduced several wellness programs that incorporate activity trackers. By meeting walking benchmarks related to frequency, intensity and tenacity, program participants can earn financial incentives of up to $1,500 per year. Initial results show the program is helping improve the health of enrollees, while also reducing health care costs. One member related to us that his company has achieved a 90% participation rate in the program, which has helped cut annual health insurance claims by more than half.
HHTN: Will the use of these devices become more commonplace in the near future?
STERLING: We see activity trackers and wearable sensors becoming increasingly more common, including as part of wellness programs and other remote-patient monitoring initiatives. Potential future applications include more effectively managing patients’ health following surgery, as well as improving at-home care for aging family members.