Wearable Devices Are a Game Changer for the Wellness Industry
As the first generation of Apple Watches are delivered to tech savvy consumers across the globe, it is clear that wearable devices are the latest game changer in the tech world. According to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the adoption rate of wearables parallels that of tablets. A full 21% of American adults already owned a wearable device in 2014. By comparison, tablet adoption was 20% in 2012 after just two years on the market, and quickly grew to 40% in 2014. Indeed, the wearables industry is exploding with new apps and devices that promise an unprecedented level of connectedness, convenience and wellness.
It’s that last one that we are especially excited about at Keenan. The tech revolution in wearable devices has already begun to have a huge impact on the wellness industry. Entrepreneur magazine reported that according to ABI Research, an estimated 13 million wearable devices will be integrated into corporate wellness plans over the next five years. Gadgets that promise to track our steps, measure our heart rate, and even prod us to get up and move are flooding the market. And with the launch of the Apple Watch, the movement is well on its way to becoming even more mainstream.
Last year, Keenan decided to jump on this bandwagon starting with our own employees. Like many companies, we could see certain health risk factors going down among our employees associated with wellness program initiatives, but obesity rates continued to stubbornly rise. We had internal weight loss challenges and online challenges to encourage healthy eating, but if people aren’t participating in physical activity, it’s hard to move the needle. We knew we needed to put in a more long-term strategic program in place to address the obesity issue and increase physical activity levels.
In the second quarter of 2014, Keenan launched the Keenan Step Up Challenge, a long-term activity challenge utilizing Fitbit wearable devices in conjunction with our wellness vendor, Healthyroads. The Fitbit is a wrist device, similar to a watch, that tracks your steps, miles, calories burned, active minutes, weight, body fat, sleep and water intake. Some models have a heart rate monitor and other advanced features. The Challenge was designed to promote awareness of activity level, encourage an increase in physical activity, and reward employees for reaching their goals with cash prizes and awards.
Keenan subsidized part of the cost of the Fitbit devices for employees. A payroll deduction of $40 for the device was required to create a sense of accountability. Participation exceeded our expectations. A full 58% of Keenan employees purchased a Fitbit device and 39% actively participated in the year-long challenge. While we are still measuring the effects of the program on health risk factors based on biometric screenings and health assessments, the benefits of the program are already quite evident around the office. A unique culture has been created with a sense of excitement and accountability in working toward our health goals. You can see the Fitbits being worn around the office. Employees follow each other on Fitbit, cheer each other on, and even engage in some friendly competition.
Keenan’s real-time experience with the program implementation, employee engagement and challenges encountered provided us with a great framework to recommend to our clients. Our KeenanWell team has already been working with a number of our clients to integrate wearable devices into their wellness programs and physical activity campaigns. While we are still in the early stages of adoption, we expect to see many more companies joining the revolution in the coming months and years.
Over time, the health benefits of wearable technology should have a positive impact on health care costs and insurance premiums. It’s a positive, encouraging way to impact insurance costs, but employees can also have fun while doing it. For our clients who are not seeing any movement in lowering their health risk factors, we are definitely promoting wearables.
About Danielle Keenan
Danielle Keenan, Health Management Specialist, provides employee health management consulting services and programs to Keenan clients. She works closely with hospitals and healthcare systems and Keenan benefit consultants to design and implement programs to help employers achieve optimal health and productivity for their workers.