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As we consider the possibilities gained through the digitisation of the physical world, we can’t overlook the potential benefits from digitisation of the employee. And while a more specialized application of the technology of fitness bands has some value for timework studies and better understanding employee interaction patterns, the best near-term opportunity for companies to use these consumer devices might be to improve employee health and wellness by using wearables in concert with the social media and other technologies the workforce already uses.
The large presence of companies like United Healthcare Group that attended this year’s CES, supports the potential for integrating consumer technologies, to impact population health and healthcare costs.
Companies will benefit from digitisation of the employee. Those that provide health insurance, as in the US, can negotiate lower premiums for a healthier employee population. Others will pay less as a share of employee health expenditures. All companies will benefit from reduced employee absenteeism and lost productivity associated with poor health.
Of course, neither healthcare technology nor employee wellness programs are new. Traditional wellness programs have often been less effective than expected or haven’t yielded sufficient return on investment. What is different now is the convergence of factors: cheap, unobtrusive sensors, mass adoption of sophisticated mobile devices, ubiquitous wireless broadband access, an ageing population, and reforms that are addressing costs and shifting more financial responsibility to individuals. All of this is creating a unique opportunity to integrate wearable devices and other technologies to improve wellness and manage illness.
By Eric Openshaw and Harry Greenspun, M.D.
Digitisation of the Employee