Humana: Bike tracking and talking teddy bears

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 28, 2011        

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Raja Rajamannar, HumanaDuring the opening keynote at the The World Congress 3rd Annual Leadership Summit on mHealth, Raja Rajamannar, SVP and Chief Innovation and Marketing Officer at Humana, spoke about Humana’s consumer-focused approach to well-being, which aims to use gamification to “make healthy things fun and fun things healthy.” Humana wants to enable consumers in six dimensions: activity, nutrition, connection, timely access, convenience, and compliance.

“I came into this industry with no baggage,” Rajamannar said during the beginning of his keynote. “I have a consumer background. Lots of things that are good for you are boring and painful; lots of things [that are] bad for you give immediate gratification. What tools do we have to change this?”

Rajamannar then discussed a number of mobile-focused programs that the company is now involved in.

One of the highlights included a concept for a bicycle that measures the rider’s weight, pulse, oximeter, and other biometrics, calculating the effort the rider is making on the bike based on their biometric data. Humana is working with bike maker Trek on the project.

Another prototype Rajamannar mentioned was “Grand and Grand,” which connects grandparents to grandchildren through two wirelessly connected teddy bears: When one user hugs a bear, the other lights up and vibrates, and the bear can speak in the voice of the other user. According to Rajamannar, almost a third of doctor visits by elderly patients are more like social visits, and the reaction from the elderly to the product has been extremely positive.

Another project is the The Humana Horsepower Challenge, which involved giving pedometers to students in 60 different schools across the US. Humana developed an “aquarium” game where the students’ pedometer logged activity data was represented by fish avatars of various sizes. (Humana has its own branded pedometer device as part of its Humana Gear offerings.) Students who exercised more appeared in the “aquarium” as larger fish. Rajamannar said that the students in the program did six times as much physical activity than before the program started. He said activity levels for the group is still higher on average than it was before the program.

Rajamannar’s keynote then shifted to Humana offerings that have already been released. Their mobile app “MyHumana” recently won best critical application from The Appy Awards. He said that doctor appointment setting and drug re-ordering features would eventually come to the app.

He also noted the launch of HumanaVitality earlier this month, a program that uses a points-based rewards system to encourage healthy behavior and wellness education. HumanVitality members first receive a health assessment to determine their “Vitality Age,” a “scientifically calculated” number that offers a representation of their risk-adjusted “true” age, and teaches members how their current behaviors are impacting their health. Members are then given “personal pathways, recommended goals to help improve their health based on their individual health needs.” Rajamannar said that HumanaVitality iPhone and Blackberry apps are currently in development.

We first reported on HumanaVitality back in February, during an interview with Humana’s CSO Paul Kusserow.  In addition, in May Humana became a beta user of MobileStorm for Healthcare,  a secure mobile messaging platform that allows HIPAA-compliant transmission of PHI (protected health information).

In 2010, Humana released Colorfall, the first of several iPhone apps that use gaming to help people engage in healthy activities. In an article published last November for MobiHealthNews, Rajamannar wrote about how mobile games could reduce ER visits. He highlighted the company’s offering DIDGET, an FDA-approved blood-glucose monitoring system for Humana pediatric patients that plugs into a Nintendo DS portable game system and awards points to users for testing their glucose levels. He claimed that DIDGET users improved their self care and reduced diabetes-related urgent and emergency-care visits by 77 percent.