Digital health technology and data are benefiting employees, employers

By leveraging information from wearable devices, employers can improve their employees’ wellness – and productivity

Innovation and consumer adoption of various digital-health technologies are prompting employers to integrate employee-generated data into their wellness initiatives at an accelerated pace.

Many of the forward-thinking employers are increasingly relying on smart phones, wearables and other in-home devices that are designed to help consumers track various parameters of their health. A growing number of these devices collect and track data for common vital signs, such as weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and sleep patterns. Some newer devices, however, can measure more detailed parameters, such as fitness levels, diet, posture, ultra-violet light exposure and various other measures.

Employees are quickly adopting this technology and integrating it into their daily lives, and this is good news for employers. According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, 70 percent of respondents said they are using a device to track their health in some way, whether to track their weight, diet or exercise program. And another survey from Health IT Outcomes reported that 90 percent of employees want their company to provide a wearable device for incentivized tracking.

Unfortunately, however, only 10 percent of the Pew survey respondents using a digital-health device indicated they are sharing that health information with a clinician or wellness program. And, that is where the real value of this health data lies. Establishing a connection between those disparate devices and an employer's wellness plans can help make a substantial impact for both workers who want to improve their health, as well as employers looking to reduce healthcare-related costs and improve workforce productivity.

To share this data, many healthcare organizations are working with technology companies that offer a "one-to-many" cloud-based data-integration platform. As such, patients are able to connect digital-health data from a multitude of wearables, applications and devices to employers' wellness programs, where it can be accessed and analyzed via a singular, integrated platform.

One such example is WELCOA, the Wellness Council of America, using Validic's digital-health platform to power the national "On The Move" Wellness Challenge. WELCOA's "On The Move" is 12-week challenge designed to engage employees in physical activity, help them better manage their stress levels and enable them to make long-term behavior changes. The program provides all participating employees with access to a corporate wellness platform offering participants educational resources, behavior-change incentives, physical-activity tracking and social-support functionality.

A recent employer and employee survey conducted by WELCOA found that more than 80 percent of employers recognize that digital health technology, such as a wearable fitness device, encourages employees to be more physically active. And 70 percent of employees said they would be more likely to use a wearable fitness tracker if their employer provided or reimbursed for the device. However, the majority of employers still do not offer programs that leverage these technologies.

As the Healthcare Internet of Things becomes an accelerated reality, employers can take advantage of this shift to utilize the data from digital-health devices to work directly with employees to change behaviors, manage conditions and improve their overall health and wellness. Some employers are already leveraging this data to form educational forums and online communities, where employees can better manage their health by engaging and sharing with others via various online support groups and programs. These social network tools help employees feel empowered to take charge of their health and ultimately help keep them engaged in wellness programs for longer periods of time.

The opportunity is here--we can now use integrated health data to create a holistic wellness solution promoting improved long-term lifestyle and behavioral changes for employees. This data also can help produce a continued drive forward for increased workplace productivity and more meaningful relationships between employers and employees.

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