Health insurers are leveraging interactive entertainment software to motivate customers to develop and maintain healthy habits, monitor illness, and avoid costly trips to the hospital.
UnitedHealthcare offers several games that reward players for adopting healthy lifestyles. OptumizeMe, available on mobile devices, allows players to compete against friends and family on health and fitness challenges. Players can collaborate on goals, track their progress, wager friendly bets, encourage each other through in-game text messages, and share their results on Facebook. Users can also choose to take on a preloaded challenge or create their own. Challenge winners receive a virtual badge, which they can later redeem for a real-world prize.
In addition, UnitedHealthcare offers Baby Blocks, an online game designed to reward low-income pregnant women and new mothers for attending regular doctor's appointments. Women who are enrolled in a UnitedHealthcare Community Plan log on to the Baby Blocks website and enter information about their pregnancy – including their due date and physician information – to complete the first "building block." Players then receive reminders to schedule doctor's appointments during important milestones in their pregnancy or baby's infancy, and unlock additional blocks when they attend. Unlocked blocks lead to rewards including baby gear, toys, books, and safety items. Mothers that stay with the program until their babies are 15 months old win more rewards for visiting the doctor.
Insurance provider Humana seeks to motivate youth fitness through play. The company launched Horsepower Challenge, a PC-based pedometer game that pits middle schools against each other in a virtual race around the globe. In the game, teams of students create horse avatars which ride a virtual school bus driving around the world. The distance the bus travels is determined by how many steps the team of students takes each day, as measured by pedometers. During the game's pilot program at five middle schools in Louisville, KY, students experienced a 13 percent increase in their physical activity.
Other games created by health insurance companies help patients prepare for hospital visits; educate healthy people on the dangers and causes of diseases such as diabetes, skin cancer, and obesity; and distract heart disease or cancer patients from pain. Through engaging games, insurers hope to improve customers' health and reduce medical costs and the amount of care needed – results that can strengthen our healthcare system.