Jiff and Towers Watson Partner for Corporate Wellness

JiffMYGOALSTowers Watson and digital health company Jiff came out of stealth mode today to reveal a new health benefits manager and wellness platform. The product, called the Health Outcomes Marketplace, was created to let employers design and deploy customized wellness programs.

Towers Watson is a global consulting firm that specializes in corporate benefits, talent management, and rewards. Its counterpart, Jiff, has been in existence since 2010, but many might recall that the startup hasn’t always been known for what it does today. The company launched JiffPad for the iPad in 2011. This was an app that allowed doctors to educate patients about their conditions and symptoms with a doctor-made tutorial that included visuals and voice recordings.

The company’s website said that in 2011 and 2012, Jiff launched a few more apps while it quietly built the new Jiff Platform that launched today. Now in 2013, Jiff isn’t sitting comfortably alone in the corporate wellness space to say the least. Many companies have been dedicated to this area for decades, and many more have cropped up within the past several years, taking these programs online.

“Part of the problem is that none of it is connected to the health care system,” Jiff CEO Derek Newell said. And this is the problem that the Jiff Platform was created to tackle.

The platform was designed so that existing apps could integrate with it and also so that new apps could easily be built on top of it. The creation of these original apps has already been going on, and the opportunity has so far attracted large payers that want to rethink the design of their disease management apps, Newell said.

Startups haven’t participated in the application building process yet, but Newell hopes to release an API within the coming months so that they can. In the meantime, some with existing apps like Fitbit, RunKeeper, and Withings have already integrated with the platform.

All of this integration should be good news for employee users, since it’s meant to allow them to have a say when it comes to how they participate in their company’s wellness program. For example, rather than being required to take a certain amount of steps with a pedometer in order to capture a wellness incentive, the idea is to let them use any device they want to track activity.

Also variable is the design of each corporate wellness program that runs on the Jiff Platform. “What happens is that a company will design a benefit program with Towers, and then Jiff plugs that into the backend,” Newell said, explaining how the partnership comes into play. A high level of customization should allow the end user to receive “the best of” the program components that are suited for him or her.

Newell compared the current disconnected approach to the disease management strategy in the early 2000s. Each disease management company originally specialized in one disease program — one offering a program for diabetes and another for congestive heart failure. But things became complicated when a patient was enrolled in two or more of these programs.

“There was this amazing complexity,” Newell said. “And the first person to pivot to do all the diseases started to win.”

Not only can the fragmentation be a barrier to user adoption, but it makes it difficult for employers to figure out if the wellness programs they’re poring money into are delivering any value.

So together with Towers Watson, Jiff plans to use the information collected from the platform to study outcomes associated with wellness programs. The hope is not only to be able to make recommendations to individual employers based on the data, but to be able to deliver intelligence to any employer about what works and what doesn’t work.

“To me there are two dimensions to the measurement work that we’re envisioning. One is the linkage of the levels of engagement into health outcomes from both a cost and quality perspective. So can you figure out what happens from a cost perspective between engaged and non-engaged diabetics?” posed Paul Matthews, practice leader of Health and Group Benefits High Value Solutions at Towers Watson.

“The other piece is, what resonates with people with regard to what applications are available? What can we learn about the usage patters, the clicking, the time that people are staying on?”

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