Why A Rewards-Based System Has The Power To Transform The Healthcare Industry [Future Of Health]

Why A Rewards-Based System Has The Power To Transform The Healthcare Industry [Future Of Health]

PSFK Labs looks at Incentivized Wellness as a way to eliminate unhealthy behaviors with rewards.

  • 27 february 2014

What happens when the allure of a toned physique and personal training sessions aren’t enough to motivate us to get off the couch and head to the gym? For many, exercise represents a tense love-hate relationship between mind and body, where our conscious thoughts have the power to keep our tired limbs moving, as well as the ability to stop us dead in our tracks.

Rewards-based systems have been implemented since the beginning of time to reinforce positive behaviors. Café loyalty cards reward frequent customers with free cups of coffee, parents offer their children treats when they behave, and employees get yearly bonuses for a job well done.

Like a “swear jar for healthy living,” emotional and financial rewards are helping people nix their unhealthy behaviors, a trend from PSFK Labs’ Future of Health report that we’re calling Incentivized Wellness. Thanks in part to the rising popularity of wearable technologies, the resulting outpour of data is enabling everyday people and patients alike to become champions of their own health.

“The science of behavioral economics has found that when people are offered immediate incentives and penalties to do the healthy thing, they are more likely to make the right decision,” explains Celine Grounder M.D., Internist and Infectious Diseases Specialist at the Spencer Cox Center For Health.


Body-tracking devices like the Fitbit and apps like Human monitor just about every activity in people’s lives, from the number of steps traversed each morning to calories burned throughout the day. These metrics have major implications not just for a person’s health, but also for the healthcare industry in general. With the data gleaned from these devices, insurance companies, employers and healthcare providers can view a comprehensive picture of a person’s health – one that’s more accurate and trustworthy than a first-person narrative.

The healthcare system is geared to follow in the car insurance industry’s footsteps, where providers lower premiums based on factors like the absence of points on a license or even good school grades. “[Patients] may get access to preferential treatment or branded medications rather than generic medications,” says John Pugh, Global Innovation Leader at Boehringer Ingelheim. “As you track more aspects of your life and these transactions arise, there could be a proliferation of opportunities and options for you when it comes to how you become insured.”

Companies like BlueCross BlueShield could enable their members to link their insurance accounts with their body-tracking devices, and the data could be transferred to doctors for annual checkups or to a personal health dashboard. While this information would surely benefit providers, it could also provide emotional perks for the members themselves, who can track how far they’ve improved health-wise. In fact, 25% of adults aged 25 to 44 feel that motivational prompts through their smartphones would have a major effect on their health choices.


Wearable technologies have the power to engage both the consumer and the healthcare system, providing intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to sustain healthy, positive behaviors.

With that in mind, companies interested in implementing a rewards-based system for their members and employees should consider the questions below:

  • Where can brands leverage positive health and wellness outcomes by meeting people with rewards and incentives?
  • How can we create a marketplace of non-monetary or emotional benefits that motivates members to engage in healthier behaviors?
  • Can we create programs that benefit the workplace environment as well as employees’ overall health?
  • How do we ensure that people feel supported rather than hassled by these incentive programs?
  • How can we use personalized incentives to reduce a patient’s risk of missing treatment and maintain adherence ?
  • How should insurance and healthcare companies redistribute the costs saved from healthier lifestyle choices back to the wider population?

With the help of our partner Boehringer IngelheimPSFK Labs has released the latest Future of Health Report, which highlights the four major themes and 13 emerging trends shaping the evolving global landscape of healthcare. To see more insights and thoughts on the Future of Health visit the PSFK page.

Contributed by: Rachel Oliner

Images: Soul Yoga, All Things D

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