Wearables offer some new opportunities for increasing participation and engagement in wellness programs for not only workers, but their family and friends as well. Not only employers, but health plans and providers can learn much from this research on the role of wearables in wellness campaigns.

As part of a study from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) three organizations incorporated the use of wearable devices into their respective wellness programs in an attempt to spur community-wide exercise and daily activity. Over 60,000 employees from BP, Emory University and Oschner Health System participated in the initiative to study the effectiveness of wearables in wellness campaigns.

Though the programs differed in some structural ways, researchers noted 3 common themes in both the implementation of the programs, and their effects.

  1. The participating employers committed to making wearables affordable to their employees through either subsidies or distributing them for free.
  2. Another way employers stimulated the long-term use of these wearables was to build a supportive community around their employees.
  3. Finally, each employer involved not only workers, but families, neighbors and friends in the exercise. This helped the participant retention rate stay above and extraordinary 80% throughout the eight-week study.

While this data is only a preliminary element in reaching a robust conclusion on the effectiveness of wearable technology, it is hard to ignore the positive results. The device itself is only part of the larger equation to inspire people to stay active in their daily lives.

The report’s key finding is that there is more research to be done on wearable devices and other similar forms of promoting engagement. Refining the conception of which methods might be helpful for payers and providers remains the challenge, but the study offers some interesting insights into the behavior of a population.

Fred Pennic’s article in HITConsultant outlines six potential strategies for using wearables in wellness campaigns. You can download a copy of the HERO report here.