Cigna gamifies health screenings with BioBall

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Cigna entered the spring of 2016 pondering ways to make patients more health-conscious. Its answer, BioBall, is a virtual reality game designed to complete health screenings and deliver pertinent health information to customers.

Cigna first unveiled BioBall in January at the Walt Disney World Marathon, which it co-sponsors. The original public model was a 12-foot cube, allowing for two players to compete in a one-minute race where players fling a light bowling-sized ball towards health-related words flashing on a screen.

The health insurer notes that high blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), blood sugar, and cholesterol are the root of chronic diseases and high healthcare costs in the U.S. Cigna’s new product helps explain two of the four — blood pressure and BMI levels — and health professionals on site measure users' blood sugar and cholesterol numbers to help educate consumers on all four key risk factors.

“We wanted to come up with a solution that gamifies learning and tells participants at least two of their numbers,” said Stephen Cassell, the carrier’s global chief brand officer.

Gamification tactics are slowly becoming immersed in insurers’ digital offerings, as companies work towards improving customer engagement and overall education. For Cigna, BioBall highlights a greater ambition of getting patients to establish relationships with doctors, outside of visiting when they feel sick, Cassell says.

Cigna plans to rollout smaller pop-up versions of the game next month to distribute throughout its network.

“Pop-up versions will be smaller than the [original] public version in order to send out to sites more easily,” Cassell said. “Final dimensions have not been set.”

BioBall’s gameplay and bowling-ball device were developed by Cigna last year, with prototypes ready for review by the fall. The insurer also partnered with Microsoft HoloLens to leverage its untethered headset to complete the experience. Players receive personalized results on the headsets and in a follow-up email at the end of the game.

“Gaming is something people grew up doing and are familiar with,” said Cassell. “BioBall is an innovative way to take control of your health and create competition with yourself and other players.”

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