Would You Wear a Health Tracker if Your Employer Asked You To?

Heath tracking devices aren’t new, but they are becoming more sophisticated and ubiquitous. With Apple’s recent unveiling of its fitness band and others (like Fitbit, FitLinxx) soon to follow, everyone, it seems, will be fitness tracked. The good news: they’re designed to encourage you to adopt a healthier lifestyle — more exercise, less fattening, salty or sugary foods. The bad news: employers can tap into them and monitor your personal health — even change what you pay for your health insurance. According to a recent article in Market Watch, millions of health tracking devices will enter the workplace by 2018.

Data to be part of your health record

Market Watch also referred to a Verizon Enterprise Solutions’ study that suggested companies would increasingly use fitness tracker information as part of one’s health record. The data will not only be useful but actionable in the sense that companies will offer incentivized programs, such as free fitness rooms to keep their health care costs in line. With employer insurance costs rising, most companies will have considerable incentive to keep their employees healthy. So don’t be surprised if your employer insists you wear a fitness tracker.

Incentivized wellness programs

The good news is that fitness trackers will also encourage firms to pay more attention to improving the health of employees being tracked. That could mean adding yoga studios in offices and hiring in-house doctors to run office health clinics. Market Watch singled out one employer that claims success in tracking employee health — Cleveland Clinic. This self-insured medical center with roughly 40,000 employees combines radical health policies with highly incentivized wellness programs — things like hiring only nonsmokers, putting Pebble FitLinxx trackers on employees, offering free Weight Watchers programs, and removing sugary drinks and unhealthy foods from its cafeteria.

Privacy concerns, government oversight

As employers and insurers gather more data about their employees’ lives, privacy concerns continue surfacing. Many fitness/health trackers have advanced beyond merely how many footsteps a person takes per day or week. Some come with sensors that can monitor heart rates, glucose levels, body temperature and other functions. An article in BloombergBusiness voiced the concerns of Pam Dixon, founder of the World Privacy Forum in San Diego. “The focus on preventive health at the expense of privacy is dangerous,” she noted, adding, “Right now it’s tracking steps per day, and the reach isn’t that far with these devices, but in time it will be quite sophisticated.” Dixon indicated that employees might have to choose between a job or wearing a health fitness device that monitors potentially sensitive health information. The information could be used to determine an employee’s health care premiums. All this begs the question of just how much government oversight will be needed to maintain an employee’s privacy. Consumers will begin to insist that controls be set up to determine how this data will be used.

Easing employee worries

Companies and insurers say they will protect employee privacy and comply with federal laws that prevent them from exposing certain health data without an employee’s consent. In most cases, at least for now, wearing fitness/health trackers is voluntary and frequently administered by third-party vendors.

105 comments

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawn4 years ago

no ....to much EMF

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Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa4 years ago

Thank you

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Kari E.
Kari E4 years ago

Are you kidding? no way...

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Corey Brideau
Corey Brideau4 years ago

I don't do anything i don't have to fuck corporations

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Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago

no

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Janice Forsythe
Janice F4 years ago

Talk about "Big Brother!" This is such an invasion of privacy that I can't believe it would ever be allowed. I'm quite sure that our privacy laws here in Canada wouldn't allow it, but thankfully, our health care system is entirely different than that of the US.

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Bonnie Bowen
Bonnie Bowen4 years ago

No way!
None of their business!

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Miki w.
Past Member 4 years ago

" stamped "??? No way

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