Skip to main content

Wearables and Health Care Costs: Are they related?

By Fara Palumbo | December 5, 2016 | Health Conditions, Healthy Lifestyle, Industry Perspectives, Life at Blue Cross NC

Feature Blog Image

In 2014, BCBSNC gave 3,500 free or discounted Fitbits to its employees who wanted to take part in its company wellness programs. While participants didn’t see changes in their body mass indexes (BMI) overall, they did see results in monthly healthcare cost savings.

How much? Team members that signed up for the company’s Fitbit challenges for all three years had an average of $57 monthly savings in healthcare costs. That’s over $500,000 in healthcare savings over the three years of the program for participants.

These results are consistent with similar studies on wearable programs at other companies. (See Springbuk’s recent three-year study on healthcare costs and wearables).

The Wearables and Wellness Programs

Over three years, BCBSNC hosted four challenges involving the use of Fitbits.


Ready, Step, Go and Step It Up

Two eight-week programs that encouraged team members to get 10k steps a day.

  • Participants: 2,853 team members
  • Results: Average amount of steps increased by over 1,100 a day and over 22% of participants reached 10k steps per day (up from 14%).

The One Billion Step Challenge

A nine-month challenge to get a billion steps together.

  • Participants: 1,200 team members
  • Results: 41% of participants lost weight throughout the year.

Summer Olympics Challenge

A six-week challenge in which participants were broken into five teams, corresponding to the colors of the Olympic rings. Each team competed for the most amount of steps. Winning teams were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze.

  • Participants: 576 team members
  • Results: 31% of participants got 10k steps a day or more


Results over the Three-Year Period

“Now – to be fair – not all of the data came back like I wanted it to,” said Christy Colgan, Health and Wellness program manager at BCBSNC. “Even though our Fitbit users had lower healthcare costs, they did not show a change in BMI. We have really focused on obesity for our employees at BCBSNC. So, I was hoping that Fitbits would help with weight loss. But, as a whole, this is not what we found.”

Overall, though, Fitbit users did two important things: They increased their physical activity and lowered their health care costs.

“In my book, that’s a win for our Wellness program and the health of our employees,” said Colgan.

NOTE: BCBSNC is not promoting Fitbits over other devices – this was just the best choice for our company.