The challenge for employers is finding digital solutions that not only drive health improvements and make sense financially, but also ones that your employees will actually use and enjoy. To better understand this “sweet spot” of digital well-being, we need to first understand the evolution of digital wellness.
The Beginnings Of Online Wellness
While the concept of well-being goes as far back as 3,000 B.C., the modern wellness movement didn’t hit its stride until the early 2000s. Propelled by the adoption of the internet in the late 90s, health information was suddenly available at our fingertips. This early connectivity paved the way for a new era of wellness, one where businesses would lean into the digital world to support employee well-being, help increase productivity, and aim to offset manageable health risks.
In the 2010s, the rise in popularity of fitness trackers further revolutionized the wellness space. Though the first pedometer was invented in the late 1700s, companies like Nike and Fitbit recognized the potential of pairing pedometer-based sensors with new technology, resulting in smaller, more portable health devices.
Combined with the evolution of smartphones and their ability to use Bluetooth® technology, this new generation of wearable fitness trackers could sync data wirelessly, in real-time. Social media fueled the movement, making it fun and trendy to share workout stats or compete virtually with friends.
Wearable Technology In The Workplace
Health experts and businesses also started to recognize the usefulness of wearable technology to get their employees moving. They began to institute tracker-based wellness initiatives to support workplace well-being and boost employee health and productivity. The immediate data sharing and ability to connect with other participants increased excitement and the motivation to “move”, inspiring competition among employees through peer-to-peer and team challenges at work.
Wearable devices also played a tremendous role in expanding the overarching definition of well-being. New technology meant we could monitor sleep habits, heart rate patterns, and personal biometric data. This led to wellness programs focused on holistic self-care and popularized the adoption of digital technology for healthcare purposes, essentially moving well-being into the palm of employees’ hands — or onto their wrists.
The Healthcare Industry And Virtual Well-Being
The healthcare industry wasn’t far behind. Health insurers and care providers began to use trackers, smartwatches, smart scales, webcams, and apps to support individuals in managing medications or conditions like diabetes and obesity.
Digital well-being also expanded into the emotional health space. Online behavioral healthcare became increasingly accessible, improved public understanding of mental illness, and helped de-stigmatize mental health support. Companies started to utilize behavior-change apps, offer online therapy appointments, and create well-being initiatives focused on better emotional health.
Virtual care visits increased, as well. While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this need, the healthcare sector had been making steady progress using telehealth for years. It became commonplace to seek care through an app like SydneySM Health, which connects users to virtual primary care visits, but also a wealth of health support like a symptom checker, nutrition tracker, well-being challenges, and local community resources.
Healthcare Technology Trends To Watch
Digitally enabled healthcare is only projected to grow. A recent McKinsey study showed 17% of care visits now occur virtually, with a significant increase in visits related to mental health and substance use.
This is an important trend, because virtual visits can provide much-needed access to immediate care — whether on a lunch break, while traveling, in rural areas, or if an individual is just too sick to leave home. Digital solutions are also addressing social drivers of health, making healthcare more accessible for all. A virtual care visit could make an invaluable difference for someone without reliable transportation or the ability to visit a doctor in person.
Another digital trend will be the use of robust, predictive data to support employee health. Personalized insights can give insurers, doctors, and care providers the ability to offset potentially costly medical conditions and provide the right care recommendations at the right time. Combined with outreach from dedicated care teams, this whole-person approach may not only boost outcomes, but also boost your employees’ confidence in their health plan.
The evolution of online wellness has been a natural one, with greater advancements to come. Through technology and connected data, digital well-being can promote community, lower costs, increase employee productivity, break barriers to accessing care, and give new and exciting opportunities to those looking to take greater accountability for their health.
Sydney Health is offered through an arrangement with CareMarket, Inc., a separate company offering mobile application services on behalf of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield© 2021-2022.