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New Study Debunks Common Wearables Beliefs

November 22, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Wearables can be effective tools to engage employees in their health and encourage healthy behavior change, according to study from Jiff, a Mountain View, Calif.-based technology company with an enterprise health benefits platform.

The data comes from an expansive two-year study on employer-sponsored wearables. The findings challenge two common employer concerns about these types of programs: that participation is limited to young and healthy employees, and that engagement is not sustainable over time. The data builds off a webinar that Jiff co-hosted in October with Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory company, on the same topic. Jiff’s dataset, one of the largest of its kind publicly released, suggests that wearables can be a valuable tool for employee health, its officials said.

The data from 14 large employers and 240,000 employees shows wearable adoption and long-term engagement from employees of all ages. Employers offering a wearables program through Jiff’s platform saw: more than half (53 percent) of employees under 40 years-old participate, and more than one-third (36 percent) of employees over 50 years-old participate as well; no measurable decline in engagement for more than nine months following the program rollout; and for one employer, found levels of engagement that have been progressively increasing for more than 18 months.

Employers have shown growing interest in wearables and are increasingly including them in their employee health and wellbeing strategies. According to Willis Towers Watson’s 2016 Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey, nearly one out of three large employers offered employees wearable devices for tracking physical activity.

However, many skeptics fear that wearables’ impact may be muted.  One common concern is that only young and healthy employees will adopt wearables, rather than older and less healthy employees who actually drive the majority of healthcare costs. Another concern is that employees will lose interest in wearables and stop using them after only a few months. Jiff’s study sought to address each of these two major concerns.

Indeed, Jiff’s recent data challenges these two common wearables beliefs. According to Jiff, the secret to sustaining engagement in wearables can be found in three simple tactics that are readily available to most employers. The first is “challenges,” or time-bound immersive and social games that encourage healthy actions. Second is “device credits,” or employer subsidies to offset the cost of purchasing devices. And third is “behavioral incentives,” or rewards for taking healthy actions, such as walking a minimum number of steps per day. Jiff’s data found that each one of these levers can make a significant impact

“Wearables have tremendous potential to improve employee health, but many employers remain skeptical,” Derek Newell, CEO of Jiff, said in a statement. “At Jiff, we are uniquely positioned to address employer questions about wearables because we collect data from dozens of device vendors and large employers. In reviewing nearly two years of Jiff data from more than 240,000 employees, we found evidence that, when done right, wearables can be an effective tool to engage employees in their health.”

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