Health Check: Using technology to manage health

A unique partnership pairs technology and fitness to get folks on the right track. (WJAR)

A unique partnership is bringing wellness to a new level.

It’s being offered to subscribers of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island. Roger Williams University is on board.

"We've had a long standing history of wellness programs at the University and this is taking it to the next level,” said Mike Gallagher, assistant director of athletics for recreation services and facilities at the university.

The partnership is between the University's insurer, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, and Virgin Pulse, a company that promotes wellness through technology. It’s called "SIMPLY WELLNESS" at Roger Williams University and is being offered to its 1,800 staff and faculty.

"Because of our relationship with Virgin Pulse, we're able to offer technology that helps you better manage your health," said Melissa Cummings, executive vice-president/chief customer officers for BCBS of RI. “It offers you challenges you can take with yourself, with your friends, with your colleagues."

"I'm very competitive,” said Ayanna Samuel, a participant who works in the bursar’s office. “So this added a more competitive aspect to the wellness program because we're tracking steps, we add friends."

"And if you click on this it'll give you the stats for the week and then it accumulates the totals," said Alfred Roda, an application specialist at the university who showed us his stats on a computer screen.

For Roda, this technology is right up his alley. But it's simple for anyone to use. Your fitness device is connected to your phone which is linked to Virgin Pulse where your daily steps are tracked. The goal is 7,000 steps a day, explained Gallagher.

For Roda, it’s a motivator.

“In the morning, I should have about 7,000," said Roda. "By night time, it's probably close to 17,000 to 19,000."

And there are incentives. The more steps, the more points.

"Those points can be redeemed for actual dollars you can spend in the Virgin storefront or dollars that, in some cases, employers deposit into one's health savings account,” said Cummings.

"It keeps me on track on my healthy habits. I try to walk more, eat healthy," said Polla Mears who works in the finance department.

Roger Williams University has been on board now for about six months with about 35 percent of its employees on board so far.

"Results already are engagement, awareness, talking about it, partnering with your colleagues on challenges. That's beginning awareness and then doing something about it is absolutely what we're seeing," said Cummings.

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