With the Apple Watch launching in March, it’s expected to herald a new boom in wearable devices. In fact the market is expected to grow by 34% a year, rising from 17 million devices sold in 2013 to 187 million by 2020 (1).


The growth in wearables is good news for several reasons. First it addresses some of the health asymmetry that exists in healthcare where your doctor or even your gym may know more about your health than you do. Second, it creates greater health awareness, and taps into a desire to understand our own health. A survey by nVision shows that nearly half the adults questioned said they’d be interested in using a non-intrusive device to monitor their blood pressure and cholesterol for example. Having this data about our health is a first step to helping people change their lifestyle behaviours, and hence reduce the risk of illness. But we know that for many it’s going to take more than just telling them their heart rate or how many steps they took to make a difference.


The new Apple Watch will allow you to track a range of different health metrics such as your heart rate, but not everyone knows whether 80bpm is good or bad? We believe it’s important to help people interpret the data, and help show them what good looks like. By translating the data into a simple to understand point’s structure like that provided by Vitality, then people can begin to understand what good looks like. For example 10 points if you do 30 mins exercise at 70% of your maximum age related heart rate or if you walk 12,500 steps.

Helping people interpret the data is the first step. But sometimes people will also need guidance on how to make better choices and be more active, which is something that a device on its own may not be able to do. Here it’s important to have a flexible and clear framework that creates a “wellness currency” to help people understand the link between their activity and the health benefits. For example, it’s important that people can gain points from a variety of activities whether they prefer to walk, run, cycle or swim. What’s more it’s important to have points based goals to help provide guidance on the amount of activity they should be doing whether that’s having a regular target of 9 points a week to help embed new healthy habits or an annual target of 800 points to reach the next Vitality status and recognise overall activity.

Finally we believe it’s not good enough to just show people the way. Sometimes we all need a little nudge to keep motivated. This is where behavioural economics tells us that the right ‘carrot’ can ensure people remain motivated and so improve the chances that people will change their lifestyle for the better. Vitality has applied these theories by creating Active Rewards, where members earn nine Vitality points in a week for getting active to unlock a drink from Starbucks and a cinema ticket at Vue or Cineworld. These regular rewards are designed to give that ‘carrot’ most of us need. And we know these rewards can make a real difference in engagement. Most wearable devices will see a big drop off in usage, because there is no incentive to stay engaged. But members who use wearable devices in conjunction with Vitality are twice as likely to still be engaged with their device after a year (2). Providing incentives also helps people to do more – VitalityHealth members’ record on average, an extra 790 steps a day compared to people using the same device outside of the Vitality framework (2).


So while the Apple Watch will provide a welcome boost to the growing wearable device market, to make these devices truly effective in helping people be more active we need to help people interpret the data, provide guidance on how they can be more active, and finally give them the “carrots” or rewards to keep them motivated. That’s why at Vitality we believe it’s important to look beyond the device and look at the whole ecosystem around it.

By linking to a number of market leading wearable devices such as Fitbug, Fitbit or Garmin, Vitality not only provides this whole ecosystem to help your client get healthier, the rewards also provide them with some value from their insurance plan even if they don’t claim.

1. www.m2mnow.biz/2015/02/24/30209-wearable-device-shipments-reach-187m-units-annually-2020-according-tractica/

2. VitalityHealth data vs. wearable device data

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