Keas adds Safeway, Target to “Facebook for employer wellness plans”


Companies are increasingly turning to startups in the employer wellness space. They view them as helping staff to take a greater interest in managing their health and help employers pare down healthcare costs. Although gaming and challenges have been increasingly popular buzzwords with these programs, a frequent problem is it can be tough to hold staff attention.

Keas has developed a more personalized approach to engagement and companies are responding. Safeway and Target are among the latest Fortune 500 companies to join its customer base of 100. It has set a goal to add another 100 companies over the next year.

Its platform combines a social network with personal health challenges tied to a common goal with an incentive. Since a lot of employers discourage their staff from using social media at work or prohibit it, that can be an appealing part of the program, albeit for people who enjoy talking about their health with colleagues.

Among companies that offer high deductible plans, some offer lower deductibles as incentives.

Keas CEO Josh Stevens likens it to Facebook for employer wellness plans.

In an interview with MedCity News, Stevens said the toughest challenge for employer health plans is figuring out how to keep members engaged. His company offers an engagement guarantee and if it fails, companies get their money back. “If you want to do something about wellness, you have to do it many times. We specialize in engaging consumers in health, but we go to consumers through the employers.”

Keas recently added a health risk assessment to its platform so employees can get a more detailed and visual understanding of their health and develop more personalized health and fitness regimens, based on their current health risks. It also helps employees to integrate the data from their personal tracking devices (such as FitBits) into Keas and receive advice or feedback on how to achieve their daily fitness goals.

Stevens said the social component is an essential part of its platform and underscores its program’s approach.

“If you treat health risks as a shameful matter, people don’t want to talk about it. But if you are in a community working with others to help you on a health journey to meet your goals,” it changes how people respond. “If you and I are on a team and the incentive is gated by us both keeping the goal, I will help you because we both want to meet the goal. It’s giving consumers tools they can use, tied in with incentives.”

But gaming and filling personal health goals to get incentives feels more like a program for millennials. A recent poll of 441 people by Keas showed that 54 percent of millennials are likely to buy a body-analyzing device that measures weight, body fat or blood pressure — 4 in 10 are currently using an app or device to lose weight. Those millennials do like their money, though. About 55 percent said  it would take a cash incentive to convince them to participate in corporate health programs at work, and 38 percent want their employers to provide them with cash-based incentives to improve their health.

But are 40- and 50-somethings interested in gaming and social networks as part of an employer wellness plan? Stevens points out that 40-something women, for example, like it because they tend to use social media to keep in touch with their children. He also adds that, for high wage earners, the attraction of winning a title like best broccoli eater or most miles walked is surprisingly strong.

“You would be amazed at how much of an incentive a superlative title can be,” Stevens said.