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UnitedHealthcare, Walgreens mobile affinity program banks on keeping members healthy

UnitedHealth's Kirk Pion: "We want to demonstrate the value of being a member of UnitedHealth"

UnitedHealthcare understands the importance of rewarding members for making smart choices about their health. That's why the insurer announced earlier this month its latest venture to integrate Walgreens Balance Rewards for health choices with UnitedHealth's Reward Me tab on the insurer's mobile app, Health4Me. Participation in the pilot program will be open for fully insured UnitedHealth members in Arizona and Illinois.

The program focuses on providing members with choices--the more points they rack up, the more offers they receive. Ultimately, the concept stemmed from the insurer wanting to demonstrate the value of being a member of UnitedHealth, Kirk Pion, vice president and innovation champion of UnitedHealth (pictured right), told FierceHealthPayer in an interview.

"We were trying to develop a mobile affinity program that acknowledges the little things people do to stay healthy on a day-to-day basis," Pion said. "It's more about trying to give them some special offers and discounts for eating healthy, staying active and doing other things that are much broader than the traditional scope of healthcare."

Since creating these programs isn't always easy, Pion mentioned three key points to keep in mind for insurers looking to partake in a similar journey.

Build awareness of existing programs

In 2012, UnitedHealth launched its widely-known app, Health4Me, which allows users to locate nearby in-network doctors and other medical facilities and view their health benefits information. Recently, the insurer decided to build on the engagement platform by developing the Reward Me app that pays users for maintaining healthy behavior.

"We wanted to take these great programs we already have in place on smartphones and identify new opportunities to engage members," Pion said. "By using existing programs, we can gauge when people will be more open to participating."

Integrate data

By now, insurers understand the importance of capitalizing on data to better understand and communicate with their members, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

UnitedHealth continues to explore how to use data, Pion noted. "We want to be able to say, 'Hey, you have a doctor's appointment coming up, here's a great program you could utilize.'" Through the Walgreens partnership, the insurer wants to guide participants back on track, should they need the assistance, and help them understand the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

Time it right

Because healthcare is just one component of people's busy lives, Pion mentioned it's important to note when people are ready for and most open to change. Insurers may need to look at members' life events to determine their willingness to participate in behavioral programs.

"At UnitedHealth, we experimented with messaging and timing to figure out the time of year people would want to get on board with these initiatives," Pion said. For instance, cold and flu season is a pivotal time of the year for consumers who may need some extra medical care. "We're going to continue harnessing data to experiment with outreach strategies to determine when it's best to reach people."

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