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The data that really predicts long-term health, and gives indicators about how to affect it, do not reside in the electronic health record (EHR). A more predictive program would draw data from employees’ activity monitors, credit card or grocery club records and social media. Where we go, what we do, what we buy – these all change our health profile. 

One lesson from the fitness industry relevant to companies seeking to improve wellness (or productivity or effectiveness) is that accuracy doesn’t matter; changing behaviour matters. So it is less a question of finding a device/application combination that can capture every movement and every bite and accurately translate them into calories out and calories in, than it is to find a combination of device and data and social platform and incentives that spur employees to move around more, to eat more healthfully and to build connections with each other. 

By Eric Openshaw and Harry Greenspun, M.D.



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In 2016, Progressive Insurance, a US-based insurance company, launched a program whereby a consumer could receive a personalized, often lower, rate on their auto insurance if they installed a small device, the Snapshot, to monitor their driving behaviour. While self-selection may be part of the answer, these drivers also had the benefit of greater awareness and information about how their driving affected their safety and the price they paid. Many modified their behaviour as a result. 

Device and Data Platforms

Imagine if employees could get a lower health-insurance rate by demonstrating a healthful lifestyle. Unlike the Progressive example, many individuals are already using these devices. Companies can experiment with these workers to develop programs and tools that provide greater transparency into how individual choices affect health and incentives and support for individuals to improve their own health. 

Predicting an individual’s health over time, and understanding how to improve it, requires creating a profile that reflects a person’s behaviours throughout the day, their movement and physical activity, their eating patterns, their socialising, etc.