Manulife launches wellness app for Canadian group benefits plan members

Manulife Financial Corp. is rolling out its Vitality health and wellness app to all its group benefits plan members after initially launching it with its own employees.

The Vitality program, which connects with wearable devices, including smartwatches, fitness bracelets and smartphones, is designed to encourage users to make healthy choices and rewards them with gift cards when they hit milestones.

“There’s powerful stats in the employer space that show changes in small habits like exercising more regularly can have a very positive impact on things like disability, on people’s absenteeism, so this could have a really powerful impact on your workforces as it’s going to have on ours,” said Mike Doughty, Manulife Canada’s president and chief executive officer, during a launch event this week in Toronto. “What’s good for employees is very good for business.”

Read: Manulife partners with Vitality to reward healthy living

To use the app, a user completes a review that covers all major health risks and then receives an “age” based on their lifestyle. Users can take nutritional assessments, as well as mental well-being assessments that cover mental stressors and psychological and social well-being. Every Monday, the app sets a weekly goal for users to work towards, personalized to their own level of fitness.

The app targets physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, smoking and excess alcohol consumption. Also speaking at the launch event, Donna Carbell, Manulife’s senior vice-president of group benefits, said it can help target the four chronic diseases that contribute to 60 per cent of deaths worldwide — cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease.

“When we looked at that from a benefits basis — and for many of you this will not be a surprise — 85 per cent of our benefits costs come directly from chronic conditions,” she said. “We really see Vitality as an opportunity to create a win-win situation across the board.”

Read: Data key in helping employees with chronic disease, survey finds

Manulife expects Vitality will reduce plan sponsors’ overall benefits claims and reduce absenteeism rates, said Carbell, noting it will be integrated into the insurer’s group benefits plans at no extra cost to employer. However, in 2020, plan sponsors will be able to pay extra to increase the rewards and customize the app, such as allowing employees to receive rewards for attending an on-site flu clinic.

Since Manulife launched the app among its own employees in July, more than 5,400 have signed up and more than 4,700 completed the health review by the end of August. The participation rate is more than 50 per cent. “We’ve had a remarkable response to [Vitality], with people really responding to the program,” said Doughty.

Read: How workplace fitness can improve employee productivity