There’s an App for That

phone-appThe majority of employers now educate employees about health and wellness through apps and portals – a practice expected to increase significantly in the year ahead. As a result, more and more health-related smartphone apps and wearables are coming on the scene.

The movement should come as no surprise, since poor diet is a major problem in the U.S. and technology is doing more to help employees make behavioral changes. It makes sense that employers become part of the solution. As health plan sponsors, they want to do everything possible to help employees improve their overall health and keep healthcare costs in check.

One app designed to improve employee nutrition is called Zipongo, created in 2011 by a physician named Jason Langheier. The app presents the healthiest options via a mobile device, whether the user is grocery shopping or eating out. It offers healthy recipes and highly personalized solutions based on the user’s biometric data, while considering existing food allergies and personal preferences. Zipongo’s solutions are currently in use at more than 150 companies, including Google and IBM.

Now is the time for employers to intervene for better health among employees. With a wide-ranging number of health-related apps to choose from, employers should investigate their options thoroughly and be sure that the ones they select work as advertised and are a good match for their organization and their employees.


Responding to Growing Demand for Transparency

medical-iconsExperts agree that a lack of true price transparency has contributed significantly to the inefficiency in healthcare. Several websites compare the costs for certain procedures at varying hospitals, but it’s still very difficult, if not impossible, to make an informed choice when preparing for a non-emergency procedure. As a result, most people still go to doctors participating in a covered network and follow physician referrals when a specialist is required. In most cases, these choices are made without any knowledge of the cost.

Powerful Mobile Technology

Today, leading TPAs are providing self-funded health plan members with a variety of very powerful mobile transparency tools. One new mobile app enables members to identify fair pricing for more than 200 common procedures, including surgeries, imaging and diagnostic testing. By linking a rewards program, the app awards financial incentives when high quality, competitively priced providers are selected over those with lesser ratings.

Another software maker that describes a third of healthcare procedures as “shoppable”, has introduced a mobile app that enables plan members to search for physicians by procedure, location and price. This tool even goes beyond facts and figures to provide detailed descriptions of the procedure being searched. When members need further assistance, care navigators are available to provide online support via a live chat option.

Expert Administration Still Matters

While a totally open pricing system may never be possible in a business as complex as healthcare, TPAs are making self-funded health plans more transparent all the time. Strategies such as Reference Based Pricing and Concierge Health Advocacy are having a tremendous impact on cost and employee engagement. And while insurance carriers typically withhold claims data from fully insured groups, TPAs are experts at helping their clients put valuable claims data to work to identify cost drivers and manage chronic conditions in ways that help the plan avoid catastrophic claims in the future.

As the transition from volume to value-based healthcare continues, more responsibility will land in the hands of plan members. Smart employers know that a well-designed health plan can foster positive change and lower costs only if members understand their benefits. As long as self-funded plans, highly personal service and creative ideas are allowed to flourish, the number of engaged consumers capable of making economically wise healthcare decisions will continue to grow.


Don’t make it easy for identity thieves

hand-with-walletHere are 5 things that you should never keep in your wallet or purse just in case it gets stolen.

  1. Social Security Card – or any paper with your Social Security Number (SSN) on it. Unlike a credit or debit card, you cannot just cancel your Social Security card or change the number.
  2. Birth Certificate. A birth certificate can get a criminal a replacement Social Security card, a passport, a driver’s license and many other forms of identification.
  3. Bank account and routing numbers. A criminal can use these numbers to empty your account(s). You would need to close the account and open an entirely new one.
  4. Password cheat sheets.
  5. Passport. This document can be used to get a new Social Security card, driver’s license or state ID card. It can also be used as an identifying document in getting a loan or opening a new credit account.

Learn more at

Source: Identity Theft Resource Center


4 ways to break bad spending habits so they don’t break the bank

sip-banking-blogWhether you have a soft-drink addiction, are a sucker for new shoes or can’t resist the latest electronic gadget, getting a handle on your discretionary spending habits may be a worthy goal.

  • Quit cold turkey – Effective for some, but it’s not for everyone. Try to avoid temptation. If you’re prone to online shopping, unsubscribe to email sales alerts.
  • Reduce rather than remove – Set limits. Tell yourself that you will only spend $X per week/month/year on your craving.
  • Talk to yourself – Before you give in to your bad spending habit, take 10 seconds to close your eyes, breathe deeply and remind yourself that the habit is a want, not a need.
  • Go public with your goal – Tell people that you want to curb your spending habit. You will be creating a support network that can cheer you on and hold you accountable.

Learn more at


Acing your class reunion

reunionCatching up with old classmates can be fun, but it can also lead to stress for many. Here are some notes to nail the exam.

  • Figure out what you’re going to say before you get to the reunion. Decide what you’re comfortable sharing about yourself – who you are and what you have done.
  • Don’t worry about your weight. Opt against a crash diet. Drastic weight loss can be unhealthy and usually doesn’t lead to long-term changes.
  • Don’t stress about how you dress. Don’t rush to buy something new or worry about being overly trendy or fashionable. Whatever you wear will likely be new to everyone there because you haven’t seen one another in years. Wear something that makes you feel comfortable.

Learn more at


Be sugar smart

sugarsToo much sugar may sour your health. And, if you’re like most people, you’re getting more of the sweet substance than you realize or should probably have.

The World Health Organization recommends that adults keep sugar to under 10% of their total daily calories, and ideally less than 5%. That means:

  • 25 grams – or roughly 6 teaspoons for women
  • 38 grams – or about 9 teaspoons for men
  • 12 to 25 grams – or 3 to 6 teaspoons for children

However, the average American takes in 19 ½ teaspoons every day – that amounts to 66 pounds of added sugar a year per person.

If you want to curb sugar consumption, consider:

  • Limiting regular soda pop to once or twice a week and switching to fruit-infused water or tea sweetened with stevia as your go-to beverage treat.
  • Having fruit for dessert.
  • Avoiding processed foods where hidden sugar may lurk.
  • Reading food labels on packaged foods and knowing sugar aliases.

For a list of other names that sugar goes by, visit

Sources: Sugar Science;