Florida Medicare Advantage plan to pay for members' activity trackers

By Jonah Comstock
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Walkadoo MeYou HealthAvMed, a Florida insurer, is offering an activity-tracker based fitness and wellness program for members for Medicare Advantage members. The program, called Walkadoo, is offered through Healthways subsidiary MeYou Health, and will serve as an expansion to Healthways and AvMeds' existing fitness program for older adults, Silver Sneakers. However, Walkadoo will also add the Fitlinxx Pebble activity meter, which will be made available for free to members.

"AvMed Medicare members are joining us on our collective journey to embrace better health and are seizing the opportunity to take more active roles in their own well-being," Winston Lonsdale, AvMed's chief Medicare executive, said in a statement. "Walkadoo is a perfect example of the kind of innovation we're offering to encourage these steps toward active lifestyles."

MeYou Health Head of Business Development, Finance and Administration Erin McGarry told MobiHealthNews that AvMed is currently paying for Walkadoo, but Healthways plans to pitch Walkadoo to Medicare for reimbursement once they have efficacy data. She noted that Medicare already reimburses for Silver Sneakers, a gym-based fitness program for older adults.

As the population gets older they're actively looking for an alternative to the gym experience," she said. "Gyms aren't for everybody, and so they've been looking for ways to supplement the experience. So if you're not able to access gyms in the network, they have another offering like Walkadoo."

For health plans, Walkadoo offers another advantage over the Silver Sneakers program -- it collects much more data about how older adults are moving.

"The only real data we have at Healthways about an individual is whether or not they swiped their membership card," McGarry said. "But for the participants in Walkadoo, obviously we know a lot more about them. We know how many steps these people are walking, when they walk, what times, for how long. And we have a little bit of an ability to see cadence as well. So all of that data we're agreggating which encourages them to extend the number of steps they take as well as engage in social experiences."

In Walkadoo, users track their steps with a pedometer or activity tracker -- either a Pebble or another device they've purchased, like a Fitbit or Jawbone. They can also sign up using ProtoGeo's paid app Moves to track their steps. The Walkadoo software uses that step data to suggest achievable goals that can adapt as the software learns more about the user's walking habits. Even if the user doesn't have a smartphone, Walkadoo can send them a daily step goal by email or text message. On the Walkadoo website, users can interact socially or engage in walking challenges in small groups. If members want to invite nonmembers to Walkadoo, like children or grandchildren, there is a freemium version of Walkadoo available directly to consumers.

AvMed is the first Medicare provider to offer Walkadoo, but not the first insurer. Last year, MeYou Health piloted the software with Blue Shield of California. At a mobile health conference in July, Senior Wellness Program Manager Ritu Riyat said that half of the company (2,500 people) was participating and, of that group, 75 percent were wearing their devices daily. McGarry said Blue Shield of California just signed a large contract to roll Walkadoo out to their members. She said the company only began rolling out the program commercially in January.

Meanwhile, both Healthways and Fitlinxx have made headlines recently. Healthways had a large rollout at Carondelet Health Network, an Arizona health system that's part of Ascension Health. Fitlinxx reported last month that it had grown 55 percent in year-over-year revenues due to a large number of employer deals.