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Beyond pedometers: Humana sponsors playgrounds, a Kinect game, and brown rice

7:54 am by | 0 Comments

Humana employees build a playground in a day in Louisville, KY.


Fit or fat, young or old, customer or not, Humana wants to help you. The insurer has partnered with KaBoom to build playgrounds that kids, parents, and grandparents can use. They have sponsored three segments in an xBox Kinect game, one for each generation. There are fitness programs for members and non-members and even senior citizen centers open to everyone in the community.

This makes for many customer touch points and a lot of data. The company’s vice president of innovation Shankar Ram said that Humana’s strategy has been to connect all these dots meticulously.

“We reazlied that you can’t really change people or behaviors, it’s all about influence,” he said.

All of these efforts are designed to rebrand the company from a conservative insurer into a company that is focused on well-being.

Ram is based at the company’s headquarters in Lousiville, KY, and works in the Innovation Center. He was a senior business leader and product head for the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan for Visa International before joining Humana in October 2011.

Pedometers for all

Humana showed off its two fitness programs this fall at Louisville’s Idea Festival. There was a room full of people setting up pedometers, measuring body fat and playing the Kinect game. It felt more like a tech product launch than an effort to get people to move more. There was even a contest to see who could walk the most steps by the end of the festival on Saturday. Everyone could join: Vitality is for members and Humana Fit is for non-members.

Members collect Vitality bucks by walking, playing the Kinect game, and buying healthy food, including brown rice, at Walmart.

“The Walmart partnership is a significant one,” Ram said. “We wanted to figure out how can we meet members where they are.”

The non-member program is a good way for Humana to tap into the coming market of health insurance exchange customers.

The company has the Medicare Advantage customer segment covered also with its Guidance centers. There are 24 centers in 21 cities, including Orlando, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Atlanta and Louisville. The centers are open to all seniors whether they have a Humana Medicare plan or not.
“The centers have people who can answer questions about plans, but the main focus is on activities and socializing,” said Ellen Nason, Humana’s digital communications manager. (Scroll down to watch a video about how the Innovation Center team worked with other divisions to launch the walking program at the centers.)

Games for all
Humana is using health video games as well as actual playgrounds to get members to exercise more often. The company launched a partnership with Ubisoft and Microsoft at the start of the year.
Humana sponsors three modules in the Your shape fitness evolve 2012. One game tests balance and agility of senior citizens, another for kids to promote physical activity, and a game for adults managing high cholesterol.
If a Humana member uses the modules, calories burned translate into Vitality points.
“If you look deep into the technology the promise, there is a lot there for health,” Ram said.

At the other end of the spectrum are the 21 playgrounds that Humana has built with KaBOOM. The project started in 2011 to mark Humana’s 50th anniversary by building 9 multigenerational playgrounds across the country. (Scroll down to watch a video of the day-long construction process.)
Humana Inc. and the Humana Foundation plan to build a total of 50 playgrounds over the next several years.
“It became such a popular thing not only in the communities but with anybody in Humana who participated that we extended the partnership with KaBoom for the next 3 years,” said Nason.

Listening to startups

Humana is embracing the accelerator trend as well. Earlier this year, Humana launched a partnership with BluePrint Health.
“We get to review 20 solutions every year, some are plug and play, others can be customized for Humana’s needs,” he said.

Humana helps the accelerator review applications as well as provides mentoring to the company’s that are selected. Ram said that he tries to be disciplined when selecting which startups to work with and not be lured by tempting technology.
“There are things that are good to do and things that we must do, like medication adherence,” he said.

[Image of Louisville playground construction project from KaBoom]

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Veronica Combs

By Veronica Combs

I am the editor in chief at MedCityNews.com. I started writing and editing in the print world and joined a dotcom right before the 2000 crash. I was at TechRepublic/CNET/BNET for 7 years. Health was more interesting to me than the latest version of Windows, so I left for a startup tracking prescription drug news. A year later, MedTrackAlert was acquired by HealthCentral, so I shifted to audience research. The fun of daily news and interviewing smart people brought me to MedCity News in February 2012.
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