Employers continue to bear a majority of health care costs in the U.S. To help reduce these costs, they can encourage their employees to take advantage of digital health technology, including mobile health apps. The IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science estimates the use of digital health care management tools for preventive health could save the U.S. health care system about $7 billion per year, if all patients who could benefit from mobile health apps used them.

It’s estimated 45 percent of Americans suffer from one or more chronic conditions, including diabetes, which now affects 12.2 percent of New York State’s population. The annual costs of employee absenteeism due to diabetes alone range from $1,621 for small companies to $17,000 for larger organizations.

The right apps empower people by providing education and digital management tools, engaging them in taking control of their health. This can mean fewer sick days, decreased costs, and most importantly, healthier lifestyles.

Chronic Condition Management

Research points to the difficulty of self-managing chronic conditions. People with diabetes for example, spend a lot of time monitoring their blood sugar, organizing medication, following a restricted diet, and tackling other challenges like gaining access to doctors when needed.

According to Trisha Greenhalgh, professor of primary health care at Queen Mary, University of London, diabetic patients spend about one percent of their time with health professionals. The remaining 99 percent of the time, the patient manages their own disease.

Mobile technology aims to bridge that gap and provide support between office visits. The Brook Health Companion, for example, helps those with diabetes and hypertension understand and control their disease better.

For people with diabetes, Brook provides expert recommendations based on a user’s daily activity to keep blood sugar at a safe level, taking the guesswork out of understanding how daily decisions affect their health. The app also produces graphs and charts to help users track their progress. For those living with hypertension, Brook users can easily measure, log, and monitor their blood pressure. The app also offers condition-based skills, including blood pressure protocols, medication support, specific dietary needs, and recommendations for increasing cardiovascular health.

Amy K., a Brook subscriber, once struggled to manage her diabetes. Through the app, she was able to learn about her condition, reach her goals faster, and lower her A1c level from 11 percent to a healthy 5.5 percent.

“All the information I need is now at my fingertips. It’s quick and easy,” said Amy. “The Brook experts tell me what I need to know, what to do, and what to change. If I have questions or problems or just need some guidance, Brook is there 24/7. I don’t’ feel alone anymore.”

-Brook Health Companion subscriber Amy K.

Nutrition & Healthy Meal Planning

A study led by Brigham Young University found employees with unhealthy diets were 66 percent more likely to report a loss in productivity. Another study found 91 percent of parents make unhealthy meal choices because they’re too busy, and three out of four say they find it inconvenient to eat healthy.

These statistics underline the importance of integrating health promotion programs in the workplace and the potential value of convenient digital tools that make it easier for people to eat healthy.

One such digital nutritional platform – Zipongo – helps users select, purchase, and prepare healthy foods from home, at work, or on-the-go. The app allows users access to recipes highly personalized to their biometrics, dietary preferences or restrictions, medical needs, and tastes, including recommendations for quick and healthy meals.

Zipongo also provides users a comprehensive database of nutritional information and other tools, including drag-and-drop meal planners, smart grocery lists with up-to-the-minute deals, discounts on healthy foods at local and regional grocery chains, and online ordering. The company reports 75 percent of Zipongo participants say they have developed healthier eating habits.

Workplace Wellness

A survey by Virgin Pulse found 85 percent of companies say wellness programs support employee engagement. Numerous studies show the popularity and value of worksite wellness programs in supporting engagement, encouraging healthy choices, and improving preventable health conditions, such as obesity and heart disease.

However, encouraging participation among employees can be resource-intensive. That’s where a mobile app tied to a corporate wellness program can help. Web-based wellness and engagement programs that include mobile apps make it easier for employees to track wellness activity, join challenges, participate in social chats, complete well-being assessments, and ultimately engage employees in managing their health.

Learn more about Independent Health’s suite of mobile apps and web-based resources to help its members attain their health and fitness goals.