One foot in front of the other
New technology could change the way we look at our own health
A new company with a Mississippi base can help businesses up their bottom line by improving the health of their workers.
Walkabout Technologies helps businesses manage healthcare costs by managing health risks of its employees, said Elynn Fish, director of business development.
“We identify the different health risks employees may have, and our goal is to challenge those with behavior modifications,” she said.
That behavior is changed through the use of a device that tracks employees’ steps, miles, activity time and calories burned through a wireless platform.
Walkabout Technologies will go into a business, set up health screens that check blood pressure and glucose and cholesterol levels.
Fish said a recent screening at a company revealed a worker with extremely high blood pressure who had to be taken to the emergency room.
“It saved the woman’s life,” Fish said. “So we’re not only saving companies’ money, but we’re improving people’s lives.”
Workers will also be given the wireless pedometers, which collect data at 20-minute intervals, allowing workers and Walkabout professionals to check their progress.
The technology complies with all federal privacy regulations, and companies can’t see individuals’ progress, but can check the overall performance of their workforce.
“The information goes to our database, and employees can set their goals and watch their data come in through a dashboard feature,” Fish said.
Employees can set their current weight and a goal weight, and the company can set individual and group challenges for workers that are incentive-based to maintain motivation.
Fish said incentives are up to the employer and that some choose to offer payment incentives such as paying for 100 percent of employees’ health benefits.
If employees don’t show improvement, that payment can be reduced.
“It’s structured to increase employee accountability,” Fish said.
She said the program works because it drives participation through engaging employees.
“It makes health risks become assets,” she said.
Walkabout Technologies can also help companies monitor health-related costs through claims data and prediction tools that show the costs of health risks and productivity loss.
Employers realize “hard dollar” savings through reduced medical costs and “soft dollar” savings through a return in improved productivity.
Fish, who’s worked in corporate health management for 20 years, said there are three reasons traditional wellness programs don’t work.
“It is difficult to engage employees — it is difficult for administrations to sustain a program and the measurements are subjective because they require employees to self-report. We offer objective data that has never been there before.
“We’re able to show employers aggregate information about their employees that maps trends of the employees and shows the direction their health is going.”
When presented with the Walkabout technology, Fish said she recognized its opportunity to have a significant impact on health in the workplace.
“Mississippi is the least healthy state in the nation,” she said. “If we can make a difference in Mississippi, we’ve got something. We can make a difference anywhere. We will do everything we can do to improve the State of Mississippi.”