March 2017 – Digital Wellness Rewards Programs

Following in the footsteps of incentive programs in the retail and credit card industries, health plans’ health and wellness rewards programs recognize healthy habits, such as purchasing nutritious food, exercising or receiving preventative care, with financial and fitness-related prizes. In addition to improving participants’ health, rewards programs help contain healthcare spending and lower claims costs.¬†Firms are also using the data collected from their rewards programs to figure out the health needs of their members as well as deliver a better health insurance product. Because of this, there had been a growth in new health and wellness rewards models. This report examines the health and wellness rewards programs offered to health plan members within the Healthcare Monitor coverage group and how these programs are marketed.

In our research, only 42% of our full coverage group of 14 health plans offer a digital rewards platform to members.¬†Whether allowing members to collect points for getting eight hours of sleep or joining a sports league, unlocking a higher health status by completing online coaching modules or providing financial incentives for members to get biometric screenings, these digital health and wellness programs offer a variety of reward-earning activities. Health rewards programs make it fun and intuitive to participate in healthy activities and challenges, but while many provide gamified functionality that is entertaining at first, ultimately, there should be incentives to keep the member engaged. Rewards and prizes are the most significant factors in keeping members interested and engaged in the programs, like financial rewards that add funds to a Health Savings Account or reduce premiums. From interviews conducted with digital rewards platform users, we found that with other rewards systems that feature sweepstake drawings, if members see that their efforts are not as worthwhile then engagement decreases. Digital rewards platforms are also emulating gamified features to increase engagement, by integrating fitness wearables and mobile apps, through which users can track, view and complete physical activities; making it easier and more enjoyable for members to make incremental changes to their health. Overall, health plans are marketing their wellness rewards programs well throughout the member site. Member awareness and understanding of these digital platforms, however, can improve with increased email marketing as well as comprehensive guides or video tutorials that detail the programs’ intricacies. Ultimately, with digital health and wellness rewards programs health plans and employers can help members become better stewards of their own health while simultaneously increasing ROI through less healthcare spending and claim processing.