Health trackers are beginning to have an effect on the insurance industry

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Related: How telematics could change the health insurance industry

Policy incentives from health tracker data gives New Year’s resolutions added significance…

New Year, new me, so we like to trot out as each January the 1st dawns. Although we may all have had enough of new year’s resolutions being bandied around over the years, as friends and work colleagues bleat on about how they’re going to change their lifestyles accordingly to find themselves in a better place (only to throw in the (sweaty) towel a few weeks down the road), yet it’s THAT time of year again. And right on cue, gym memberships are acknowledging their annual early January peak – prior to the subsequent February trough as the new regimes prove all too ambitious for many.

However this year more and more resolution-makers here in the UK are starting out with a new work-out partner, and one which doesn’t crack the whip quite as physically as a regimented personal fitness trainer. Though that’s not to say that fitness-orientated wearable tech lets the would-be gym bunny off any lighter; simply that it takes a more calculated approach to the whole ‘getting fit’ thing.

One such manufacturer of health-tracking wearable tech, Accenture, conducted its own research this time in 2015 and discovered that some 8% of the population had already (star) jumped on the fitness-tracking bandwagon; a figure which we would hazard a guess has been significantly increased in the 12 months that have passed since.

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Indeed, stats just released for this Christmas period just gone reveal that in the 2 days directly following the 25th of December, the Fitbit app (Apple’s bespoke health tracking tech which pairs with their own iWatches) made the top 10 in the UK’s download charts.

Wherever you turn you’re confronted with people sporting watch-like devices which actively monitor our every waking movement, along with any exertions which take place involuntarily whilst we sleep.

How health trackers are affecting both health and life insurance

Many folk will have unwrapped Fitbits, Sony Smartbands, Garmin Vivosmarts and Jawbone UP3’s just a few weeks back and have been figuring out how to hit their recommended daily targets (typically measured by steps taken) ever since. And the double whammy (or bonus points) is the underlying fact that a number of life and health policy-providing insurance companies are rapidly beginning to recognise the efforts being put in by policyholder and are starting to reward them as a result.

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In fact, the more steps you complete (which naturally means the fitter you become) the more freebies you are potentially in line to bag.

Essentially batches of steps accrued can be traded like store card points for an extensive range of swag – everything from free coffee, cinema tickets and flight discounts.

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For the more health-conscious there’s benefits like reduced gym memberships, snazzy running shoes, bikes and a whole lot more besides; but it’s the insurance benefits which are of most interest to us.

In terms of insurance gains (or incremental savings over a period of time), the deal works like this: while the scheme’s partners gain access to motivated customers, firms who offer health and life insurance policies as perks of the job are made aware that their staff are incentivised to become/stay uber healthy; and therefore less inclined to go off on sick leave due to their new-found healthier lifestyle choices.

So private health insurance companies can ultimately afford their policyholders more competitively priced premiums together with dramatically minimising the likelihood of settling pay-outs to those who succumb to ill health in the future. One such insurer is Vitality Health, who recently stated they had ‘witnessed an explosion in wearable tech in the past year’ and spoke candidly about ‘overseeing a 150% increase in people receiving their maximum exercise points every month’. Although Vitality stopped short of shedding any light on just how many of its 900,000 customers participate in the bespoke rewards scheme it promotes.

Rewards from a health perspective have long gone hand in hand with personally championing a fitter lifestyle, yet now with the advent of health tracking devices which play their integral part in reducing health and life insurance policy premiums, there really are no excuses for shaping up this new year.