Healthmiles: A New Strategy for Taking Control of Your Health

Healthmiles: A New Strategy for Taking Control of Your Health

Feature Article:

It''s as easy as putting one foot in front of the other — and then just keep on moving — and you''ll be rewarded. That''s a message employees are hearing at some companies today as employers look for new ways to encourage them to take control of their lives and their health — all in an effort to control rising health care costs.

And it''s the principle behind Healthmiles, a first-of-its-kind rewards program from Virgin Life Care and Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM).

Similar in concept to frequent flier programs, Healthmiles provides incentives designed to motivate people to lead healthier lives and take a preventive approach to health care.

The program, developed by Virgin Life Care and being offered by Humana, aims to create and reward healthy consumers while simultaneously reducing long-term health care costs.

The program, available to employers with 300 or more employees, works like many rewards programs — only you don''t get rewards for flying or using a credit card. Healthmiles members earn “miles” for exercising, tracking results and monitoring and improving key body biometrics, such as blood pressure, body fat and weight. These miles are converted into Virgin Life Care Cash, which can be used to purchase items from more than 50 retailers nationwide.

After piloting the Healthmiles program with our Louisville-based Associates in March of 2006 and seeing positive results, Healthmiles was launched to all Humana associates nationwide in November. We continue to see increased activity and engagement in the program as well as improved BMI levels and blood pressure readings and increased activity.

Employees can earn up to either $250 or $400 in rewards annually. Included in the $400 program is a Gozone pedometer that tracks steps, distance and calories and easily uploads to the Lifezone, a password-protected Web site available only to the member. Employers can also choose to have a Healthzone, a health measurement kiosk on site that measures blood pressure, weight and body fat and calculates BMI. In addition to healthzones at employer sites, Healthmiles members can also use the Healthzones located at the Louisville Athletic Clubs. Measurements are uploaded to the Lifezone Web site and can be tracked along with additional exercise efforts.

Locally, New Albany-Floyd County School Corp. is one of the newest Humana insured organizations that have turned to this innovative health rewards program.

“Healthmiles is fun and easy to use,” says Thomas M. Jones of The Hartfield Co., the School Corporation''s insurance consultant. “In addition to getting active, tracking measurements, and earning rewards, the teachers, administrators, and staff can participate in ‘team challenges'' with colleagues and possibly earn additional prizes. … It has all the components to encourage participation.”

Employees say some of the keys to the success of the Healthmiles program, in addition to the gift cards, is the year-round engagement from quarterly challenges, the on-going messaging on the Web site and the “monthly statements” that let them see exactly what they''ve accomplished.

And for employers, it''s the turn-key approach that often frees resources that had been consumed with managing employee wellness efforts and, comprehensive, online reporting and a focused Healthmiles Account Executive make the program easy to implement and maintain.

Effective prevention is the key to battling preventable diseases like obesity and diabetes, reducing health care costs and improving the overall well-being of all Americans. Healthmiles puts more control, choice and accountability into the hands of employees and motivates them to take steps towards making healthy decisions about their life and lifestyle.

For more information on Healthmiles, contact Elizabeth Bierbower at 502-580-8799.

Elizabeth Bierbower is vice president of product innovation for Humana. Beth is responsible for Humana’s consumer strategy as well as its product development activities. Most notably Beth was responsible for the introduction of Humana''s smartsuite product line, the humanaaccess card and is a named inventor on a patent tied to pharmacy based health reimbursement arrangements. Beth is a frequent presenter on the topic of consumerism and has authored a number of articles as well as a chapter in the soon to be updated “Managed Care Handbook.” Beth has served as chair of a number of health savings accounts conferences, is a member of the editorial board of Thompson’s Consumer Directed Health Care newsletter and has appeared on CNN and PBS.Beth earned a master''s degree in Public Management, graduating with highest honors, from Carnegie Mellon University. She received a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Carlow College in Pennsylvania.