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Market Ripe for Health and Wellness Gamification Startups

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Health and Wellness Gamification Startups Showing Great Promise

A new study shows that employers are increasingly relying on gamification to increase employee health engagement. According to Buck Constultants, 62% of employers consider gamification the most effective strategy in encouraging employees to improve their health and at least 31% will adopt at least one new health-related gamification strategy in the coming year.

As healthcare costs continue to rise, employers are facing new pressure to encourage employees to be proactive about their health.  While there is still insufficient data to determine whether employee health incentive programs are actually saving companies money, it seems that most businesses are not waiting to find out. In a survey of 800 mid-to-large sized employers conducted by Aon Hewitt, researchers found that 83% of employers currently offer some sort of employee incentives through wellness programs.  Most of these incentives come in the form of a reward, but 5% of companies surveyed use a penalty, and 16% use both.  More than 50% of employers indicated they had seen an increase in employee health engagement through their programs, and 56% are now making employee participation a requirement.

This environment creates a wide window of opportunity for gamification startups like EveryMove.  EveryMove allows users to choose rewards that they earn through staying active.  Users can see their progress toward their chosen reward and receive bonus points when friends cheer them on.  The program is free to users. Rewards are offered by brands, employers, and health plans.  When a user earns a reward EveryMove collects a small fee from whoever offered the reward.  The company recently announced a $2.6 million financing deal from investors including venture capitalists and major health plan providers.  The startup is attractive to health providers looking for ways to improve their relationship with consumers and encourage consumer behaviors that will ultimately help the company’s bottom line.  Currently in beta, EveryMove will use the influx of capital to get ready for the the company’s broader launch later this year.

Another startup finding success in today’s market is Audax Health. With their flagship product, Zensey, Audax is attempting to put a fresh twist on the employee Health Risk Assessment process.  Zensey includes a HRA but also combines social networking and gamification features designed to increase employee engagement.  Zensey is HIPPA compliant and offers opportunities for expert advice, personal recommendations, goal setting, online physicals, and one-stop-data tracking.  Audax recently signed an agreement with CIGNA to make its platform available to all of CIGNA’s 12 million customers.

Mango Health has succeeded in a more specific area:  helping employees properly manage their medications.  Mango Health users enter medications into the app by taking a picture or by entering text.  The app then warns users of potentially dangerous drug interactions and reminds them when to take their medications or supplements.  When they take their medications as scheduled, users earn points they can redeem for real world prizes.  Last summer Mango Health recieved $1.45 million in seed funding.  Company founders plan to build a range of consumer health apps using gamification principles.

According to the Aon Hewitt study, companies are vested in reducing costs by improving employee health.  The challenge is finding ways to encourage people to make long-term lifestyle changes.

With 56% of employers now requiring employee participation in wellness programs and 58% considering penalizing employees who do not take steps to improve their help, the market is ripe for health startups who can help employees make changes that stick.

Image by Tom Mooring

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