A US health insurance company is now offering its policyholders a connected wristband and promising to pay them if they get out and do more walking. This will in turn enable the insurer to get hold of valuable biometric information.

Health insurer providing free wristband in exchange for biometric data

Connected objects are being used nowadays in a variety of ways in the health field.  In addition, they also provide opportunities for insurance companies to make use of the basic health data that these devices collect.

Oscar, a New York-based insurance company founded in 2013 in the wake of the United States Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – aka ‘Obamacare’ – has taken a historic step by offering connected wristband pedometers to its 17,000 policyholders, with a promise to pay them to get into shape and stay fit. The Oscar-branded wristband on offer is manufactured by wearable device specialist Misfit and normally sells for between $50 and $100. Oscar will manage the linked app from an online software programme and will in return gain access to its customers’ biometric data. In addition to the wristband, the innovative insurer is offering another carrot to the insured: direct payment to policyholders when they reach set targets.

As soon as you put the wristband on your wrist, the device will start to record the steps you take every day. The number of steps will be compared to your target calculated by the software programme algorithm according to your profile – between 2,000 and 10,000 strides per day. The results are sent to Oscar directly from the app or alternatively via HealthKit, a programme developed by Apple that allows apps providing health and fitness services to share their data with Apple’s Health app and with each other. If you reached or surpass your target, Oscar will pay you a dollar. Do so 20 times and you will receive an Amazon $20 gift card, up to a maximum value of $240 each year.

Oscar has just embarked on this new approach. It remains to be seen if the policyholders will be easily won over by the financial inducements or whether they will come to realise that they have opened Pandora’s box by providing personal biometrics to their insurer, who will henceforth possess criteria for adjusting the terms of their insurance policies. Watch this space…

By Virginie de Kerautem