UnitedHealthcare Puts Its Connected Health Plan in Motion

The health insurance provider has taken a bespoke approach to its wellness program for employee-sponsored health plans.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 03, 2016

At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Conference (HIMSS), a health-care IT industry conference held this week in Las Vegas, health insurance provider UnitedHealthcare shared details on Tuesday about UnitedHealthcare Motion, the firm's wellness program for employee-sponsored health plans with high deductibles. The program incents participants to meet daily fitness goals by offering them micropayments that are deposited into a heath savings account (HSA) linked to their health plan. Activity data is transmitted to UnitedHealthcare via a wearable activity tracker, which the insurer provides.

UnitedHealthcare partnered with Qualcomm Life, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, to design and implement the program. Qualcomm Life's mission is to provide connectivity and data-management solutions for health-care applications. James Mault, Qualcomm Life's VP and chief medical officer, says UnitedHealthcare has taken a rigorous approach to deploying the Motion program in order to ensure the insights it could glean from the wearable provide real value to the payer as well as the patient.

Activity data is transmitted to UnitedHealthcare via a wearable activity tracker provided by the insurer.
"The current retail wearable counts steps and calculates calories burned," Mault says, "but it does not correlate [that data] to a demonstrable health outcome that can be validated against claims data." Without that level of information, he says, an insurer cannot draw links between the insured's activities and the cost of his or her health care. But after years of research and development, in which the insurer's mathematicians and data scientists collaborated with wireless health-care system designers at Qualcomm Life, UnitedHealthcare has developed a program that it believes will benefit both itself and its customers.

According to Mault, the wearable device issued to Motion program participants "generates a set of data that is able to see the actual physical exertion of each individual and their activity, as well as their body mass, muscle mass and physical stature." Mault declines to disclose the exact mix of sensors contained in the customized wearable, which is manufactured by Trio Motion but which runs a proprietary set of algorithms co-developed by UnitedHealthcare and Qualcomm Life.

The wearable device transmits data via an embedded Bluetooth radio to the UnitedHealthcare Motion mobile app running on a user's mobile phone or tablet (it downloads passively, whenever the wearable is within Bluetooth range). The phone or tablet then uploads that data, via a cellular or Wi-Fi network connection, to Qualcomm Life's 2net Mobility platform, which is HIPPA-certified and also supports other wireless health applications, such as those focusing on in-care monitoring for seniors.

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