Digital Health Revolution: Lessons Learned So Far

By Rebecca Madsen, Chief Consumer Officer, UnitedHealthcare

The promise of the digital health revolution is tantalizing: a multitude of connected devices providing personalized feedback to help people improve their health. Yet, some recent studies have called into question the effectiveness of these resources.

While still evolving, many compelling use-cases are starting to emerge for digital health, including a set of best practices that can help guide the maturation of this emerging field. In the near future, many people may gain access to individual health records, a modern medical record that curates information from multiple sources, including electronic health records, pharmacies, and medical claims, to help support physicians in care delivery through data sharing and evidence-based guidelines.  

As these advances become a reality, here are several digital health strategies consumers, employers and health care innovators in Texas should consider:    

Micro-Behavior Change: Part of the power of digital health is the ability to provide people with actionable information about their health status and behavior patterns. As part of that, some of the most successful digital health programs are demonstrating an ability to encourage daily “micro-behavior change” that, overtime, may contribute to improved health outcomes and lower costs. For instance, wearable device walking programs can remind people to move consistently throughout the day, while offering objective metrics showcasing actual activity patterns and, ideally, reinforcing positive habits to support sustained change. Technology that encourages seemingly small healthy habits – each day – can eventually translate to meaningful improvements.    

Clinical Interventions: Big data is a buzz word often associated with digital health, but the use of analytics and technology is only meaningful as part of a holistic approach to care. Through programs that incorporate clinical intervention and support by care providers, the true value of digital health can be unlocked to help make meaningful differences in people’s well-being. For instance, new programs are featuring connected asthma inhalers that use wirelessly enabled sensors to track adherence rates, including frequency and dosage, and relay that information to health care professionals. Armed with this tangible data, care providers can counsel patients more effectively on following recommended treatments. Rather than simply giving consumers the latest technologies and sending them along, these innovations can be most effective when integrated with a holistic care plan.     

Real-Time Information: One key advantage of digital resources, such as apps or websites, is the ability to provide real-time information, both to consumers and health care professionals. This can help improve how physicians treat people, enabling for more customized recommendations based on personal health histories and a patient’s specific health plan. For instance, new apps are enabling physicians to know which medications are covered by a person’s health plan and recommend lower-cost alternatives (if available) before the patient actually leaves the office. The ability to access real-time information – and act on it – can be crucial in the effort to use technology to empower health care providers and patients.     

Financial Incentives: Nearly everyone wants to be healthy, but sometimes people need a nudge to take that first step toward wellness. To help drive that engagement, the use of financial incentives is becoming more widespread by employers and health plans, with targeted and structured rewards proving most effective. From using mobile apps and comparison shopping for health care services to encouraging expectant women to use a website to follow recommended prenatal and post-partum appointments, financial incentives can range from nominal amounts (such as gift cards) to hundreds of dollars per year. Coupling digital health resources with financial rewards can be an important step in getting – and keeping – people engaged.

The digital health market will continue to grow, with some studies estimating that the industry will exceed $379 billion by 2024. To make the most of these resources, health care innovators will be well served to take note of these initial concepts.

Image: Stock Photo

Tips to Help Make Walking More Fun and Effective

With spring’s arrival and the days getting warmer and longer, people in Texas can put on their shoes and experience the many health benefits of walking – which may be one of the simplest and best ways to exercise.

April is Move More Month, an annual celebration established by the American Heart Association to encourage people, schools, workplaces and communities to get out and walk for at least 30 minutes* and put themselves on the road to a healthier lifestyle.  

Studies have shown walking more and sitting less may help people maintain a healthier weight, ward off depression and prevent serious health issues like heart disease. And a report from Harvard Medical School concluded that walking can help curb sweet cravings, boost the immune system and ease joint pain.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help make walking more fun and effective during April and year-round:

Think FIT: While many people aim for achieving an aggregate number of total steps each day, research shows that moving frequently throughout the day and taking at least one brisk, 30-minute walk also can have health benefits. That’s why people should think FIT, which stands for frequency (500 steps within seven minutes six times per day), intensity (3,000 steps within 30 minutes each day) and tenacity (at least 10,000 total steps per day). If those targets seem daunting, remember it helps to start slowly and build up over time.  

Find Friends: Walking can also double as a chance to socialize with friends, family or co-workers. Plus, research shows there are several advantages to recruiting a workout friend, likely because that person can hold you accountable and offer support. And starting or joining a walking group at work or in your neighborhood can prove helpful, too. In fact, working out in a group lowers stress by 26 percent, compared to working out alone.

Walk with A Wearable: Recent studies show that people tend to overestimate how much they exercise and underestimate sedentary time. To help understand your actual activity patterns and, ideally, reinforce positive habits to support sustained change, consider using a wearable device. This increasingly popular technology has been shown to help people remain diligent in achieving those daily step goals, while encouraging seemingly small healthy habits – each day – that can eventually translate to meaningful improvements.    

Earn Incentives:  A majority of employers (86 percent) offer incentive-based wellness programs, including some that enable employees to earn more than $1,000 per year by meeting certain daily walking goals. Similarly, websites such as myachievement.com enable people to earn cash rewards for walking. Throughout April, people can go to uhcwalkingmaps.com, sign the pledge to walk more and become eligible for a chance to win one of more than 100 walking-related prizes, including a trip for two to hike the Grand Canyon or Apple Watch®. On behalf of the first 25,000 people to sign the pledge, UnitedHealthcare will donate a total of $25,000 to help reduce childhood obesity, including contributions to Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.

So, this Move More Month, consider these walking tips as you take a step toward better health.

 

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Open to legal residents of 50 U.S. and D.C., 18 or older. To Enter: Visit www.UHCWalkingmaps.com (“Website”) between 12:01 AM CT on 3/28/19 and 11:59 PM CT on 4/30/19, follow online instructions, and agree to take the “Step Up for Better Health” Pledge to be healthier. Prizes: Grand (1): Travel voucher (maximum ARV $5,000); First (10): Apple Watch® (ARV $279); Second (100): $25 Foot Locker® gift card; Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received for each drawing. See Website for drawing dates, details, limitations & Official Rules. United HealthCare Services, Inc., Minnetonka, MN 55343.

Apple Watch is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc. Apple is not a participant or sponsor of this promotion.

UnitedHealthcare Alief Clinic Opens in Southwest Houston

UnitedHealthcare has opened a clinic in the heart of southwest Houston’s Alief neighborhood, providing UnitedHealthcare Community Plan Medicaid members in the area with a convenient place to go for medical and behavioral support.

Additionally, the UnitedHealthcare Alief Clinic offers over-the-phone services, including scheduling and a nurse-led helpline to address medical concerns and route patients to their best care options.

The clinic is the first of its kind for UnitedHealthcare. A second UnitedHealthcare clinic is slated to open later this spring in Tempe, Arizona.

The UnitedHealthcare Alief Clinic is located at 9380 West Sam Houston Parkway S. in Houston.