Why wearable devices add to your healthcare costs

I’ve got to learn to watch my mouth….
See, I’ve consulted with many companies who are incredibly proud to show me their wearable devices along with the incredible incentives that go to employees wearing them. In fact, I met with one Wellness Manager who was PUMPED to tell me she was actually wearing 6 wearable devices as we talked!
Inevitably, I blurted out…
“Well those things don’t work.. I mean.. Let me explain!”

We generally consult against just passing out wearable devices and pushing your next 10,000 step competition, solely because the general population has so many movement related issues.

With all these movement related issues, in even simple gait patterns (walking patterns), employees might be taking 10,000 steps per day but they’re 10,000 steps closer each day to a knee surgery because they haven’t fixed the underlying issues of their movement. We’re always down for people moving more, but moving properly first.

So while I definitely want to increase human movement, I would only suggest we find a way to interlace it with the practice of proper movement mechanics.

Another other issue I’ve observed through my own research on these devices, along with anecdotal data we get from companies that use them, is such programs generally reinforce the already present behavior of employees. Meaning:

If people move a lot already, they love the device because it tells them how much they’re moving, but they don’t have to change any habits to get the incentive.So the company is giving an incentive that adds cost to their bottom line to employees who continue doing what they were already doing and who now have little incentive to change. These people could be in great shape because they’re already active.. Or they could have an active job combined with a host of other unhealthy habits and be costing you a great deal of healthcare costs.
If people don’t move a great deal, the incentive advocates some arbitrary number of steps to achieve. Employee hits said number and feels immediate gratification… BUT!  Employee doesn’t change other habits (nutrition especially) and the arbitrary number may not be very hard to achieve (a sedentary person can achieve up to 3,000 steps per day).

We get the benefits of increased movement.. We fall incredibly short of making a difference in healthcare costs, productivity, and any change to the bottom line.

One fantastic benefit to corporate wellness programs is the aspect of team work. Wearable device programs may get some great buzz and competition around the office, but can also be a largely solitary activity. Unless step groups are encouraged, we again are incentivizing employees away from a beneficial behavior.

Final Thoughts

There could definitely be great value to wearable devices and accompanying programs. We need employees to move more. It would just take some game planning on how to use the device much more effectively than we’ve seen in the past while still requiring some movement training to fix any underlying issues.

Could we combine these devices and programs with some great corrective movement programs? I think so. Possibly add in walking groups, meetings on the move, fitness classes? Definitely.

Do you have a “Wellness Program” because you have started handing out wearable devices along with a whole bunch of incentives? Probably not.

But could these devices find their way into your holistic Wellness Program? Most definitely.

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