Blue Shield: Social Media and Gamification

Designing Digitally


We write alot about gamification on our blog; how it increases engagement, boost morale, the list goes on and on. So, for this installment we will be looking at more of a case study type bit. Enjoy!

Blue Shield of California has discovered that gamification combined with social media is motivating its employees to strive towards healthier lifestyles. They’re also now thinking the approach could work for the employees of their corporate health insurance clients as well. Implementing this strategy would be good for everyone, particularly the employees and their families.

As Information Week website reports,

“Blue Shield launched Wellvolution, a wellness initiative for its own employees, in 2009. This program had some impact, but the company eventually realized that it could do even better,” Bryce Williams, director of Wellvolution, told InformationHealth Healthcare. Recent research has shown the power of social connectedness in improving health outcomes. Also, mobile health apps were suddenly catching on among consumers. “So it made sense to take the technology that people were already using and comfortable with, and migrate that to a health platform that included social media and social gaming,” Williams explained.

Blue Shield's first move was trying an application called Shape Up Shield, which focuses on promoting physical activity. Shape Up Shield is an eight-week-long, social-media-fueled challenge that uses an online platform to let employees form teams, post comments in forums, set team and personal fitness goals, and give virtual 'high fives' for encouragement. In 2011, over 1,800 Shape Up Shield participants walked, hiked and ran a combined 600 million steps, or about 300,000 miles.

Another application, Healthrageous, uses mobile devices to get patients involved in wellness and chronic disease care. Based on personal data collected on these devices, Healthrageous advises and supports patients in meeting their health goals. The program also includes a social media element in which participants can compete and share their experiences online.

Including the impact of Shape Up Shield, the Wellvolution initiative has had an impressive track record. “In the past three years,” Williams said, “80% of Blue Shield employees have participated in at least one of its wellness programs. During that period, there has been a 50% drop in smoking prevalence and a similar increase in regular physical activity among employees. The incidence of hypertension has fallen by two-thirds, and disability claims are down among participating workers, but not others.”

One reason for the high participation rate in Wellvolution is the incentives offered to employees. Wellness program participants are paying $3 million a year less in insurance premiums, and they're getting a total of 2,500 "health days" off from work. The company has also benefited by cutting annual health cost growth for its employees from double to single digits.

You can read the entire coverage on Blue Shield’s social media/gamification strategy here.