All posts from Helena
Helena in Science,

You might be wearing a health tracker at work one day

Millions of health tracking devices to enter workplace by 2018


You’ve been sitting too long

With Apple unveiling a glorified fitness band this week, the world has moved yet another step closer to personalized health care—and it could one day have many of us donning fitness trackers at work.

More than 13 million health and fitness tracking devices such as Fitbit, FitLinxx and Apple Watch are expected to be introduced into the workplace by 2018 as employers adopt incentivized wellness programs to tackle rising health care costs, according to a study by Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

“Tracker information will become part of your health record,” said Nancy Green, global practice lead for health care at Verizon Enterprise Solutions. It will be a powerful tool for employers and health-care professionals as data becomes usable and actionable, she said.

Many companies already offer incentivized programs such as antismoking campaigns and free fitness rooms. But with employer insurance costs rising, including a projected 5.8% this year, according to Towers Watson, corporate wellness services revenues are expected to grow in parallel—by an annualized rate of 8.8% over five years, to $11.3 billion by 2019, according to IBISWorld.

Companies “have a very large vested interest to make sure you’re healthy,” Green said.

All of this may mean more fitness trackers at work, the tracking of employee activity data, the building of yoga studios in offices and the hiring of in-house doctors to run office health clinics, said Malay Gandhi, managing director of health-focused venture-capital firm Rock Health.

“It’s an advantage to make employees as productive as possible,” Gandhi said.

Revenue Outlook of Corporate Wellness Services Industry

It’s reasonable to be skeptical about the growth of this market given such low participation rates to date. But the Cleveland Clinic, a self-insured medical center with an estimated 40,000 employees, is claiming bottom-line success from its radical health policies and highly-incentivized wellness programs that include solely hiring nonsmokers, putting Pebble FitLinxx trackers on employees, offering Curve memberships and Weight Watchers programs free-of-charge, and banning sugary drinks and unhealthy foods from the cafeteria.

The clinic, which offers discounts on its insurance plans when certain health and fitness goals are attained, boasts a participation rate of 60% -- far above the industry average—and said it has reduced its annual insurance growth rate to 3% from 8% before the program was launched in 2009. Costs to fund its wellness program are offset by a healthier workforce that require fewer visits to the emergency room, and lower medical costs associated with critical diseases, said Terpeluk.

“It’s a pretty significant investment in our employees, and what we’ve found is our cost curve has flattened out,” said Paul Terpeluk, a Cleveland Clinic medical director who heads up the company’s employee health programs. “At end of day you’ll start to see results.”

Interestingly, the Cleveland Clinic names obesity and smoking among the six critical diseases employees must address when signing up for its insurance plans. The others are diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and asthma.

“Tracker information will become part of your health record.”
Nancy Green, Verizon Enterprise Solutions

Jennifer Booton