Employers track workforce fitness with wearable tech
Employers of all varieties are trying to hold down health insurance costs and a growing number are offering rewards and/or penalties based on workers getting annual physicals or joining smoking cessation programs. Now, some are turning to wearable technology to motivate employees to get into better shape.
According to a report by Bloomberg News, BP Plc offered one of its employees a different way to cut his annual insurance bill by $1,200. The worker wore a fitness-tracking bracelet that gave him points toward cheaper health insurance based on his level of physical activity. After a year, the worker shed 70 pounds, reduced his blood pressure and improved his cholesterol.
A study by RAND Corporation, published earlier this year, of 67,000 people who participated in PepsiCo’s "Healthy Living" program over a seven-year period found an average savings of $30 a month per worker who participated in the lifestyle management initiative.
The Bloomberg piece points out that wearing such devices (cost estimated to be $594 per worker) does raise questions about employees’ right to privacy. While most wearable tech devices now act much like pedometers, they are likely to become more sophisticated over time. As more detailed information about a person’s health becomes available, it could potentially be used against workers. Employers counter that they are not capturing data on individual employees, but are seeing data in aggregate form from third-parties that manage these programs.
- Wear This Device So the Boss Knows You’re Losing Weight – Bloomberg News
- Managing Manifest Diseases, But Not Health Risks, Saved PepsiCo Money Over Seven Years (abstract) – Health Affairs
- Should CVS Require Workers to Submit to Medical Screenings? – RetailWire
Do you see wearable tech devices as an effective means for reducing employer healthcare costs? Are you concerned about companies overstepping the privacy line?