A holding company with more than 400 subsidiaries, Virgin Group is involved in air travel, telecommunications, vacations, publishing and even vodka distillation. Virgin can track your health, too.
Virgin HealthMiles, a company that offers wellness programs focused on employee engagement, has introduced the "Spring '12 release" of its real-time health data dashboard platform. The Web-based tool allows employers to analyze employees' health data so that they can boost employee motivation and productivity.
The company is part of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, which also includes Virgin Atlantic Airways and the wireless carrier Virgin Mobile.
First launched in 2009, the platform allows employers to collect health data in real time to influence employee behavior. The Spring '12 release brings additional data-collection methods for employers and allows them to spot health patterns based on segments, including specific health risks, physical activity levels and corporate departments.
Launched on April 24, the new version incorporates expanded biometric screenings and the Virgin HealthMiles Health Assessment. Employees are also able to challenge each other to meet certain health goals through gaming.
Through the added real-time reporting, companies can monitor the population health of their employees as employees update their biometric readings online.
Workers can enter and view their health information in a central Web account called LifeZone. In this portal, employees can record data such as weight, blood pressure and calories burned. The company's GoZone pedometer connects to the portal and allows users to record the distance they run.
In addition, the HealthMiles Dash mobile app works on Apple iOS devices. The iPhone's built-in accelerometer can connect to LifeZone to allow users to track their activity. VirginHealthMiles introduced the mobile app on Feb. 8.
The Virgin HealthMiles allows human resource executives at companies to track employee health trends and help prevent lifestyle-related conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. The service encourages employees to report on their diet choices and other lifestyle behaviors.
Employers can use the data to understand patterns in employees' health, according to Tom Abshire, senior vice president of products, marketing and member engagement for Virgin HealthMiles.
"We want to provide a health and productivity engagement platform for employers to create a unified cross-platform experience to help employees build an awareness and a stronger culture," Abshire told eWEEK.
Although employers monitor workers' employee data to improve their wellness programs and reduce health care costs, the information is "de-identified," Abshire noted.
Companies use the data to determine whether changes in biometric readings like blood pressure and weight mean a firm's smoking cessation may be successful or not, Abshire noted. Or an employee may have just swapped one chronic condition for another, he added.
Tracking trends in a population's health is also called predictive modeling. Analyzing health data, or clinical informatics, is an important part of managing patient care, according to a March 2 report called "Needles in a Haystack: Seeking Knowledge With Clinical Informatics" by PwC.
UnitedHealthGroup has a platform called OptumInsight that allows hospitals to track population health, and Caradigm, the new joint venture between GE and Microsoft, plans to focus its product development on population health patterns.