UnitedHealth goes for behavior change
January 13, 2013 in Medical Technology
UnitedHealth Group is pushing a theme of behavior change and incentives to improve America’s troubled healthcare system – and, more importantly, the American patient. It’s a battle that Reed Tuckson, MD, UnitedHealth’s executive vice president and chief of medical affairs, says won’t be easy.
“We are now trying to turn a battleship around” to get the nation’s healthcare system to incentivize wellness and prevention,” he said during an “Inside the Digital Health Studio” session at the Digital Health Summit last week, part of the Consumer Electronics Show.
Tuckson’s message is, in his words, dire. The American healthcare system is facing ” a huge problem of a runaway freight train of costs,” with no means of funding the increase in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security budgets to cover the nation’s increase in chronic diseases and aging-in-place residents and a projected decrease in healthcare providers.
[See also: Wellocracy launches at CES.]
Added to that, he said, are these statistics: 21 percent of Americans still smoke, with 1,000 kids a day becoming addicted to tobacco; and 26 percent of Americans say they get no exercise whatsoever.
(To add an international spin to the message, Tuckson pointed out that China’s estimated 100 million diabetic population is expected to grow to 300 million by 2020.)
Tuckson said he doesn’t believe in “magic bullets” or “a-ha moments” that will push the American healthcare system in the right direction. “There’s no one thing that’s going to get us out of this mess,” he said. Instead, he wants to “line up all the bullets and shoot them at the same time” – namely, align incentives for providers, use mHealth technology to change healthcare delivery models, and target behavioral change.
To that end, at the UnitedHealthcare booth in the exhibit hall, the company is showing off a new partnership with KONAMI Digital Entertainment to launch a classroom edition of KONAMI’s “DanceDanceRevolution” interactive video game. The so-called “exergame” is designed to enable as many as 48 students to participate at the same time, using wireless mat controllers embedded with a smart card that can track each student’s progress and chart information like steps, body mass index and caloric burn rate for teachers.
“’DanceDanceRevolution’ introduced a generation of young people to an innovative and fun approach to physical activity,” said Clara Baum, senior director of strategic marketing and partnerships for KONAMI, in a press release issued at CES announcing the partnership. “With the recent launch of our Classroom Edition and KONAMI’s collaboration with UnitedHealthcare, we see the healthy lifestyle benefits of expanding the active video games or ‘exergaming’ platform and making this fun, physical activity system available to as many people as possible.”
[See also: Gupta opens CES Digital Health Summit.]
UnitedHealth and KONAMI have launched the program in three schools in Longwood and Gainesville, Fla., and Fresno, Texas. The project is also part of UnitedHealth’s “Activate for Kids” initiative, which is being launched in school systems in Florida, Georgia and Texas with the help of the United Health Foundation.