Saving for discounts by living healthily
A new health programme will reward patients with - or at risk of developing - cardio-vascular diseases for keeping to a healthy lifestyle. A research group including psychologist Andrea Evers has been awarded 2.5 million euros by the Dutch Heart Foundation and the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport.
Patients can earn points by stopping smoking, for example, or watching their weight, taking lessons at a gym or buying healthy food. They will then get a price reduction at large retail chains and on excursions. The BENEFIT consortium, that is made up of many different organisations and companies, will use the 2.5 million euros to develop the programme and implement it nationally. The project is headed by the Department of Health, Medical and Neuropsychology at Leiden University's Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, the Cardiology Department at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) and the eHealth company Vital10.
A healthy lifestyle is important for everyone. Following a heart attack patients are often very motivated to live more healthily. However, after a period of revalidation and supervision, it often proves difficult to keep up a healthy lifestyle. 'In particular the transition from the revalidation centre to a patient's own environment can be the point where many patients revert to their former lifestyle,' explains health psychologist Professor Andrea Evers (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Leiden University). The BENEFIT programme is intended as an extra impetus to continue a healthy style of living, in addition to revalidation and monitoring by the GP.
Making a healthy lifestyle attractive
BENEFIT combines individual coaching - digital or face-to-face - with a reward system. Participants have access via the computer to a personal health portal that shows the state of their lifestyle and health. The health portal shows, for example, data from their activity monitor, blood pressure meter, weighing scales and apps on their mobile phone. Participants can earn points by, for example, walking enough steps every day, not smoking, eating healthy food and, if necessary checking their weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and/or cholesterol at set times. 'We want to make it attractive for people to adopt a healthy lifestyle and also reward them for keeping to it,' medical psychologist Dr Veronica Janssen (Cardiology Department, LUMC) explains. 'Participants can take part in a health game to earn extra points, by doing challenges; these could be things like following lessons at the gym for a month, or going on organised walks. They can also earn points by involving friends and family in a healthy lifestyle.' The points can be redeemed for pleasant days out and discounts on products at large retail chains.
An independent users' committee will assess whether the products for which the participants can earn a discount are appropriate for a healthy lifestyle. 'We'd also like to give a discount on the individual contribution to health care insurances,' Evers says. The privacy of the data collected on the participants will of course be well protected to avoid any improper use of the data.
Healthcare providers will initially offer BENEFIT to patients who have - or who are at an increased risk of developing - cardio-vascular disease. Ultimately the programme will be introduced nationally and anyone in the Netherlands who is interested will be able to take part. 'The BENEFIT consortium is expressly a public-private consortium so as to bring together care and commerce in a responsible and stimulating way,' explains cardiologist Dr Roderik Kraaijenhagen (director of Vital10). 'By working together we can develop a new ecosystem and funding model that will stimulate healthy living and that will also have benefits for businesses and individuals.' After five years BENEFIT should be able to carry on without the need for a subsidy.