JOHANNESBURG – Discovery still aims to launch the flight benefit for its Vitality Active Rewards programme in the first half of this year.
Dr Shrey Viranna, CEO of Discovery Vitality, says it is working with its partner kulula.com through some of the systems integration and the implementation of the benefit.
Since launching Vitality Active Rewards late in September last year, roughly 160 000 activations have been registered, representing some 15% of the comparable local Vitality base.
Viranna says this is about two to three times what they anticipated based on the South African history and statistics from the programme in the UK, making it the fastest growing benefit in its history. The aim is to hit 300 000 activations by the end of this year and 500 000 by end 2017.
The Active Rewards programme sets members a personalised weekly points goal, which can be achieved through various physical activities, with the aim to promote healthy behaviour and reduce health costs in the long run.
The graphs below demonstrate the improvement in physical activity engagement achieved across a range of members.
Members are rewarded with short-term incentives like free smoothies and coffees at Kauai and Vida e Caffè when reaching their goals and can get up to a 100% off on their monthly gym fees or Apple watch installments if they consistently reach their weekly targets.
Earlier communication suggested that members could save up to a 100% off the base fare of certain local flights based on the number of goals achieved between the time of booking and the departure date and that the benefit would be activated early in 2016.
When pressed for details on the percentage of members who consistently hit their weekly targets during the past few months, Viranna declined to provide specifics but said it was a “big percentage”.
Roughly 355 000 Kauai and Vida e Caffè vouchers have been issued since launch.
Asked whether Vitality had to compensate partners at market value for these benefits, Viranna said it had partnership agreements with almost all of its benefit partners which have “different commercial terms” that are “quite variable in its nature”.
Due to feedback from some members with limited access to the short-term benefit partners, it is considering adding one or two short-term benefit partners in the next few months, Viranna said.
Regulatory requirements will however make it impossible to reward individual members who consistently hit their weekly targets with lower medical aid premiums in future.
Dr Craig Nossel, head of Vitality Wellness, says since 2000 medical schemes are not allowed to “risk rate” which means they can’t charge a 65-year old member with diabetes a different premium to a healthy 25-year-old on the same plan.
Viranna says there are currently no plans to revise the 3 000 maximum points allocation per activity, but it will revisit the weekly target cap of 1 200 points at an appropriate time to make it more clinically relevant and improve verification. (One gym visit earns you 100 points, while a 5 kilometre Parkrun equates to 300 points.)
He says there are already anecdotal evidence of people hitting their weekly target on a Saturday morning (the start of the Rewards week). These individuals may be discouraged to continue exercising during the rest of the week.
“It is a very small group of people, we are tracking them carefully and at the right point we might want to either create a new category or lift it for everybody.”
Gaming the system
While the vast majority of its community is engaging and getting active, there are also some attempts to take short-cuts or game the system (see examples below).
Viranna says as they refine the program, it is important to encourage behaviour that is clinically relevant to the health outcomes it wants to encourage and to ensure that the system has the right level of verification and validity so that unethical behaviour can be reduced.
* The journalist is a Vitality Active Rewards member.