UnitedHealthcare to offer customized Fitbit Charge 2 for incentive-based employee wellness program

By Heather Mack
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UnitedHealthcare’s wellness program Motion will soon offer participants the ability to use Fitbit’s Charge 2 to track activity metrics via a customized integration with Motion’s Frequency, Intensity and Tenacity (F.I.T.) program. Using the device, participants can track progress on their daily goals and earn financial incentives that can be applied towards their healthcare plan.

United Healthcare Motion, which is powered by Qualcomm Life’s 2net platform, is an employer-sponsored wellness program that launched in March 2016. With the integration of the Fitbit Charge 2, participants can earn up to $4 per day in credits by achieving one or more of their goals on each arm of the F.I.T program. All together, participants can earn up to $1,500 in Health Savings Account or Health Reimbursement Account credits per year. 

“This is much more than a marketing initiative or a step competition. This is really showing the fundamental economics of an entire health plan are built and underwritten by data coming from a wearable device.” Dr. James Mault, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Qualcomm Life told MobiHealthNews in an interview.

Mault said the integration with the Fitbit Charge 2 also speaks to the progression of the UnitedHealthcare and Qualcomm Life partnership as an example of the expanding medical Internet of Things.

“The 2net platform is an enabler for a large, open ecosystem of third party devices,” Mault said. “So by announcing Fitbit, this is showing the beginning of an open ecosystem that we are managing on behalf of United to manage various third party devices and work with device manufacturers.”

The integrated program with Fitbit is based on a pilot program from last year that took place across 12 states, which UnitedHealthcare said was successful for the fact that it looked at activity tracking in three different ways. Motion’s F.I.T. program rewards participants for completing 300 steps in five minutes an hour a part at least six times per day (Frequency); completing 3,000 steps in 30 minutes at least once per day (Intensity); or completing at least 10,000 steps per day (Tenacity).

“We wanted to build a wellness program that really incentivizes you to hit different measurements, and what we found to be really valuable was the frequency goal,” Will Shanley, UnitedHealthcare’s director of public relations, told MobiHealthNews in an interview. “Even for people who are relatively fit, it’s easy to be sedentary in our society – you wake up and watch TV, you drive to work, sit at a computer, drive home…even if you exercise after work, there is a lot of time during the day you could be nudged to move more.”

While Fitbit has been brought into many corporate wellness programs, this marks the first time that a customized version of one of the company’s devices will be directly integrated into another wellness program.

“You look back at a few years ago, and wellness programs required you to input everything – logging your devices and all that data. But with wearable devices, it’s just automatic, so that makes it so much easier to stay engaged, and what makes sense for employers is to have that right incentive level,” said Shanley.
 
UnitedHealthcare keyed in on walking because it is such an accessible activity, Shanley said. But for those who cannot participate in the program due to hindrances in their mobility beyond their control, they can obtain a waiver from their doctor, send it to UnitedHealthcare and they will be granted the full incentive.

Motion program participants who go for the Fitbit Charge 2 integration will also have access to the full Fitbit experience, including the full app with social media, guidance and competitive aspects.

“It’s a really exciting step,” Amy McDonough, Vice President of Fitbit Group Health, told MobiHealthNews in an interview. “Beyond the excitement of working with UnitedHealthcare for their large market share and proven focus on innovation, they actually added us into the design, which opens a lot of opportunities in the digital health space. Now we will be connected to Qualcomm’s 2net hub, and this is all part of a program that brings together technology, power and the best in class wearable device in one.”