New Technology Allows Access to Health-Tracking Data

Med City News posted an article yesterday discussing Aetna’s new smartphone app. The premise behind these applications is that health care companies can more easily monitor individuals and encourage healthier behaviors.

These types of apps can integrate with other fitness and health apparatuses (e.g., FitDay, Fitbit) to give a more customized experience for everyone involved.

The article states that individuals are the primary target, but that employers will soon be brought into the fold, with ways to look at data generated by their employees. Of course, due to regulatory provisions about privacy and confidentiality, this data will be aggregated and anonymous.

More and more health care companies are going to be adopting these methods of data collection. This is good news for employers, as they will have a better overall picture of employee health (at least for employees who participate). It will also allow for better customization of their wellness offerings.

It will also introduce a bit more of a challenge for some wellness program administrators. The article states that some health data is complicated and difficult to use, but that more “convenient” data can be used effectively to try and drive behavior change. Still, having more usable data underscores the necessity of being able to understand the data and what it says about the health of the organization at large.

HR departments haven’t really been known for hiring employees with extensive education in health, nutrition, fitness, or quantitative fields (math, statistics).* Since many wellness programs originate in human resources, it is essential that the wellness team have members who are quantitatively-oriented, health knowledgeable, and well-versed in strategy. The combination will allow for better use of the health data you gather.

* Please correct me if I’m wrong. I’m not entirely familiar with HR education. From what I know of HR curricula, there typically is a course or two in statistics and finance, but not much more on the quantitative level… and hardly anything health-wise.

This requires you to take one or more of the following actions:

  • Bringing in an employee or two from different departments with the knowledge you need to join the wellness team (having several departments involved is good for your program anyway)
  • Hiring someone into HR with wellness experience and/or a strong mathematical background (along with the other skills needed to perform in HR)
  • Contracting someone educated in health to assist your internal wellness team
  • Encouraging your HR employees to further their education in wellness programming, quantitative analysis, and/or strategy

Regardless of what you do, you must realize that even though you may have a wealth of data at your fingertips, failing to use that data properly is as bad as not having it at all.

Combining knowledge in health, mathematics, and strategy will give you a significant edge in utilizing the data that this new technology provides.

What is your experience with using the technology and data that your health care company provides?

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