BlueCross joins digital health marketplace

bcbsDigital platforms with a focus on health and wellness were all the rage in 2014, numbers show. And with that in mind, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is entering the fray.

The Columbia-based insurer has begun rolling out a digital health platform to group accounts which offers tools and support for healthier lifestyles. Dubbed Rally Health, the web and mobile platform offers a local approach to one of the mobile industry’s most burgeoning markets.

“The whole device base is kind of blowing up,” said Matt Shaffer, BlueCross senior vice president. “We want to try to be a ‘bring your own device’-type thing. People use all kinds of different fitness apps, all kinds of applications for nutrition tracking, weight loss, tracking their run or workout.”

A recent mobile health economics report by research2guidance, a consultancy and market research company, says the global health and fitness mobile app market is currently worth about $4 billion, but could increase to $26 billion by 2017. It also estimates there are now 100,000 health-related applications for Android and iOS, a number which has doubled over the last two years.
An end-of-year rundown by Google said its Health and Fitness app was its fastest growing category last year, according to, with MyFitnessPal topping the charts. It joins a digital health market which has also seen Google Fit, Microsoft Health, Apple Watch’s fitness options and activity trackers such as Fitbit and the Nike+ FuelBand enter the industry.

“We want our platform to be inclusive of being able to bring all that type of stuff into the personal profile so that people get a holistic view and can interact with us if they want coaching,” Shaffer said.

Rally Health uses clinical data, customized recommendations and continual rewards to help users better manage their health and fitness. The platform begins with an online survey to assess the person’s interests, concerns and health status. It then creates a personalized experience featuring recommendations, rewards, coaching, online communities and interest and content.

“We’re working with the medical community to change the health care model in South Carolina, and we’ve developed business health plans that motivate employees to improve their health,” said Dr. Shawn Stinson, BlueCross vice president and chief medical director. “But we know that businesses still want to engage individual employees further.

“This new platform is an attractive tool that will make people want to track their progress and be rewarded for it. It also lets us provide better metrics to our group accounts.”

Members can also connect with BlueCross health coaches with help for chronic conditions, such as diabetes and weight management. The approach extends the insurance company’s traditional telephone support model into an ongoing monitoring and support systems, as coaches can encourage members through the process with motivational messages and secure chat features.

BlueCross worked with Rally over the last year to develop the secure, HIPPA-compliant application. Shaffer hopes its release will offer a new way to keep its users interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“That’s been one of the big challenges,” he said. “How do you get interested and keep them engaged? It’s preference-based, it’s personalized, so the more you can let them plug into it with the device they want to use, you create touch points that sustain it over time and make them want to come back to it because it’s not generic, it’s about them. Much like how a Facebook page is curated.”

The company is also keeping users engaged through its LiveLifeBlue awards, which rewards businesses that create a culture of wellness in the workplace. Aiken’s Savannah River Remediation LLC was the most recent winner, where 172 employees in a weight-loss campaign combined to drop approximately 2,000 pounds, or one ton. Twenty participants lost more than 25 pounds, four more lost more than 50 and another lost a campaign-best 63.

That engagement is not only leading to healthier lifestyles for workers, Shaffer said, but lowering the long-term cost self-insured businesses may have in the future.

“American corporations have seen healthcare be one of their most expansive expenditures, an area that’s expanding faster than probably any other part of their balance sheet on a negative basis,” he said. “And they’re trying to hold back that tide.

“They understand that wellness in its early days will increase your spend a little bit as you maybe fund incentive programs, as you pay for more prevention and wellness screenings, these types of things. But you’re trying to avoid larger costs later, and it’s an investment in your human capital.”


See the article from Columbia Regional Business Report

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