As the health care market evolves through changes driven by the Affordable Care Act, employers and employees are taking a closer look at how to drive down costs.
By far the most effective method of keeping costs low is to stay healthy in the first place. That's why many employers are moving toward programs that provide incentives for workers who stay in shape. But the question of how to track and incentivize healthy behavior is still being answered.
A handful of companies are working to provide metrics to employees and employers through the combination of physical devices, often worn on the wrist, paired with back-end software that tracks activities and makes data available in an easy-to-understand format.
The FitBit is easily the best-known and among the most well established of these physical devices, with the newest variant — the FitBit Charge HR — using continuous heart rate monitoring on and OLED screen, combined with a smartphone pairing feature that displays caller ID, and traditional features like step, sleep and heart rate tracking during workouts.
FitBit's corporate wellness program allows managers to monitor individual, team and company-wide progress on health, and offers a variety of trackers to employers. Companies such as Adobe, BP, and Diageo are already using Fitbit's corporate solution, which also allows employees to encourage one another through a centralized dashboard.
Jawbone, which offers a new splash-proof fitness tracker called the UP3 for $180, can also measure heart rate, calorie burn, sleep tracking and other activities, as well as give users a gentle nudge to get active when they've been sedentary for too long.
Jawbone also offers a corporate wellness program called Up for Groups. Like Jawbone's solution, it allows managers to monitor a team's activity and offer motivation to help team members make healthier choices, according to Jawbone's marketing materials. A digital coach offers personalized tips to employees, from how to eat and sleep better, to making healthier food choices.
FitBit and Jawbone are just two of many tools available to employers, including offerings from insurers such as BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee that can sync with any fitness device. But with widespread consumer adoption of these devices already underway, employers may have an easier time convincing their workers to adopt the technology.