Using FitBit to lower insurance costs

Health insurance premiums are projected to rise 6.3% this year for US companies and their employees. This is on top of an already hefty base. Last year, the average health cost per employee was $10,522. The employees' portion of the total healthcare premium was $2,204 and the average employee out-of-pocket costs, such as co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles, was $2,200. 


Employees' share of healthcare costs, including both premiums and out-of-pocket costs, have increased more than 50% over the last five years. Take a look: 


What if you could stem the cost tide with a pedometer? A May 2013 study from researchers at the University of Michigan Health System and Stanford University examined that very issue. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the "large-scale implementation of an incentivized internet-mediated walking program for obese adults and to examine program acceptance, adherence, and impact." (Disclaimer: the study did not specify which brand of pedometer was used.)



6,538 adults participated in the challenge of taking 5,000 steps per day - or 450,000 steps per quarter - to reduce insurance cost growth. The Blue Care Network, a health maintenance organization owned by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, put together the financial incentive program. The result? 


97% of the participants succeeded in meeting their walking goal.


We know that 1 in 3 adults are obese and that the medical costs associated with obesity are estimated at $147 billion. That works out to about $1,500 more for obese patients than for those of normal weight. If walking is literally the "first step" in patient engagement, then maybe this is a patient engagement trend with legs.