Step To Give Results: Fun, Engaging, and Rewarding

The Step To Give experiment was fun, engaging, and for me personally it was surprisingly rewarding.  Big smile, very big.


Nine of us paid $10 each and worked together as a team for 21 days to meet the team total step count and therefore make a donation to the Alliance For a Healthier Generation – to help fight childhood obesity.

The total team commitment added up to just over 1.5 million steps and we ended up walking more than 1.8 million steps. That’s about 900 miles!! (read more about the mechanics of the Quest here, and have a look at the team tracking spreadsheet that I updated 3-4 times per day here) Continue reading

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Step To Give: An Activity Tracker Engagement Experiment

In a couple previous posts  (here and here) I wrote about some ideas for how fitness trackers might leverage peer pressure and intrinsic rewards to keep people engaged with their shiny new wearable toy once the shiny new part wears off (no Misfit Shine pun intended!). In summary, the idea is to form small teams that work closely together on a step quest to meet a team goal. Meeting the team goal for the quest results in a donation being made to a prosocial cause.

To take these ideas a step further (sorry), I am going to run an experimental step quest with a team of about 10 Fitbit users called Step To Give.

Step To Give – The Mechanics and Rules


The Step Quest experiment is going to work like this: Continue reading

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Get Smart With the New Misfit Shine

“Don’t tell me there’s another wearable fitness tracker on the shelf”

Guess what, there’s another wearable fitness tracker on the shelf at Apple.


“I asked you not to tell me that.” Continue reading

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If You’re Not the Customer, You’re the Product

I just read an interesting post by Seth Godin titled “The Choke Point”.  Seth is talking about Facebook and LinkedIn and Google and warning us all that ‘Again and again, we see that if you’re not the customer, you’re the product. “Free” usually means, “you’re not in charge.” The race continues to be one for attention.‘.

It made me think about healthcare and especially employer provided healthcare insurance.

Healthcare insurance is usually not completely free (although at Microsoft, when I was there, it was), but even though we are paying a greater and greater share of the insurance premiums, we are fooling ourselves if we think that we are the real customer making healthcare purchasing decisions in a real market.

How much is your employer paying for your healthcare insurance – do you have any idea how much it really costs? You are not the insurance companies customer – the employer is. How much did your doctor charge your insurance company for your last office visit?  Which diagnosis and procedure codes ended up on the claim submitted to the insurance company and how much was actually paid? Did you have any say in the matter? Of the $2.6 trillion spent on healthcare last year in the US, how much of that was spent “on” you? You are not even your physician’s real customer – the insurance company is.

The media is starting to peel back the curtain on the healthcare market and expose the alternate reality that it operates in. $100k for a knee replacement in the US vs $13.6K in Brussels – that is so utterly ridiculous that I’m at a loss for words (and that really is saying something!).

Could the reason that this alternate reality market was able to develop be due to the fact that the end-consumer of healthcare is not the customer – but as Seth put it, the patient is actually the product?

It is no wonder that nobody is spending any real money on prevention – that would de-value the product. If you take care of your joints when you are in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s – then you won’t be worth $200,000 to replace your knees in your 60’s.  Where’s the profit in that?

How the hell did we end up with such a mess?

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Step Up and Flex Those Behavior Change Muscles

Fitbit, Jawbone, Basis, Misfit, Withings, Lark, Nike.. the list of activity tracking devices continues to grow. Which to choose? There are plenty of opinions – but most of the discussion comparing them tends to focus on hardware specific features such as comfort, accuracy, and ease of data synchronization and I have also read many comments simply claiming: “I would never buy one, this is nothing but an expensive pedometer”.


Business Insider: Jawbone Up VS. Fitbit Flex: Which Is The Best Fitness Band?

While I agree that getting the device right is a critical element of success, I believe that the real goal here is to facilitate behavior change – to create new habits – and in the process establish a new healthy/active identity. If we simply think of these devices through the lense of a fancy pedometer, then they are destined to end up in the junk drawer after a few months of use. The choice should be based on which one is more effective at facilitating lasting behavior change as oposed to which one holds a charge longer.

In this post I am going to suggest a few quick ideas for how these apps could distinguish themselves as behavior change agents. Continue reading

Posted in Healthcare lifestyle, Healthcare technology | 2 Comments

Employer-provided Health Insurance Is … well … Killing Us

Participation in the healthcare system in this country is largely tied to your employment. If you need healthcare, get a job. If your employer doesn’t offer healthcare insurance,  you are likely to simply go without. Stay at your current job for another 8 years, no matter how much you hate it so your coverage will continue when you retire.  For a majority of the population, this is unfortunately the current paradigm. application-benefits

Ross Douthat just published an op-ed in the New York Times that suggested that “Employer-provided health insurance is an idea whose time has passed”.

I strongly agree. Continue reading

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To Keep Me Engaged, Make It Meaningful

I believe that consumer tracking devices such as the Jawbone Up and Fitbit can have a long-term positive impact by helping people to establish healthy behaviors and habits. However, at the handful of consumer health oriented conferences I’ve been to, there is always a loud voice of skepticism from health care professionals who claim that all of the evidence suggests that they don’t result in lasting change; people use the device for a month and then it goes into a drawer and old habits return. What I have not heard a lot of in response to these skeptics is how the complete application experience of these various devices is being architected for long-term engagement and behavior change.

So with this “use-it-until-the-novelty-wears-off” problem in mind, I’ve been studying some basic behavior economic and behavior/habit design principles presented by a variety of well known researchers and authors in this space such as BJ Fogg, Dan Ariely, Daniel Kahneman, and others. How can wearable devices leverage all of this behavior research to create more long-lasting engagement and behavior change? This post and others I plan to write represent some of my thinking in this area.

Make it Meaningful

Continue reading

Posted in Healthcare, Healthcare lifestyle, Healthcare technology | 2 Comments