November 04, 2011

A few weeks ago, Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross released a smartphone app that functions as a pedometer. Ostensibly, the app could help people train for the 10 mile run the insurer has sponsored for several years — but it also functions as a way for users to track their personal wellness goals and activities year-round.

This week Cranbury, N.J.-based Amerihealth released a similar app and tie-in. The launch of Step2It, available for iOS and Android devices, coincides with the Cooper-Norcross “Run the Bridge” Challenge, just across the river from Philadelphia in Camden. It allows users to, according to an Amerihealth release:

  • Follow the path of AmeriHealth New Jersey-sponsored walks and runs with pre-loaded routes
  • Track where you are, using the GPS-enabled map.
  • Customize the app with your gender, height, and weight, and learn how many calories you burned.
  • Save your workouts to see just how much you improve over time.
  • Share your workout status with friends using integrated Facebook, Twitter, or SMS messages.

      There's a lot of similarities there to the IBX app. That's OK; technology is a copycat world. Why, though, is this particular approach gaining popularity? Well, it may be driven by healthcare reform. The PPACA prescribes more robust wellness programs at work, in a goal to drive better habits and reduce healthcare costs. Health insurers that build a wellness infrastructure taking advantage of popular technologies could be at an advantage in attracting group sales as employers ramp up their efforts. As Aite Group analyst Kunal Pandya told me last month for an article in I&T's latest digital issue, they're well on their way:

      Insurers are doing a lot of work on the prevention and wellness aspect [of healthcare reform]. All the health plans provide some kind of tools around that. But they need to do a better job of pushing them to their consumers.

      Of course, literally putting these tools in the palms of consumers' hands is certainly an effective way of pushing them. Further, taking advantage of existing sponsorship relationships, like Amerihealth and IBX are doing with the races, increases their relevance to consumers.

      ABOUT THE AUTHOR
      Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...