Cigna partners with Microsoft HoloLens on biometric game

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Cigna's aim for BioBall is to offer an innovative, engaging platform where consumers can learn about biometric factors that can positively impact their health.

Health insurance giant Cigna partnered with Microsoft to gamify biometric health screenings using Microsoft's HoloLens, a pair of smart glasses that uses virtual and augmented reality to share digital content.

The initiative targets consumers and also employers, secondarily, according to Cigna.

Called the BioBall, the game features a light bowling-size ball that gathers biometric data, including blood pressure and body mass index, about players in real-time. Players first have their blood pressure taken by a trained Cigna representative and then participate in a one-minute race using the ball. The BioBall senses the player's pulse and responds with reflective light to connect the game experience with the player's heartbeat. At the end of the game, the player receives his or her metrics privately on their headsets and can have health advice sent to them via email.

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“The Microsoft technology provided a way for us to be personal with whoever's playing the game with their own information but at the same time allow them to have an engaging experience around learning about their blood pressure and their body mass,” said Stephen Cassell, Cigna's chief brand officer.

According to a three-year study conducted by Cigna released 2014, having an understanding of the four key biometrics — blood pressure, BMI, blood sugar, and cholesterol — can lead more people to take steps to improve their health.  Cigna conducted the study among 200,000 members, and results showed that people with chronic conditions, usually indicated by unhealthy biometrics, have higher healthcare expenses. By educating consumers about the importance of preventative care, it can help them save out-of-pocket costs, which helps both the patient and insurer save money, according to Cigna.

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Cigna's aim for BioBall is to offer an innovative, engaging platform where consumers can learn about biometric factors that can positively impact their health.

“We want to build that awareness so people do go to their doctor to get their checkups and take control of their health,” said Cassell. “If you don't know, you can't take any action against this, and that's what we're trying to encourage.”

Cigna debuted BioBall at the Walt Disney World Marathon Expo in January, and an estimated 1,200 people went to the Cigna booth to play the game.

“There was a mom in her early 50s with two sons, and she said, ‘I can't get this one to go get a check up,'” said Cassell. The BioBall “is cajoling him to at least see everything is more or less where it should be.”

The BioBall will be available at other Cigna-sponsored events such as the Disneyland Marathon in September, and the insurer is also developing portable pop-up versions to use at client sites. Cassell said he expects those to be available starting in April. Employers will be able to request BioBall for their onsite clinics or employee events.

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“This is how we break through,” said Cassell. “With the HoloLens, when you experience it, you hear the voice in your ear, it's something that sticks with you.”

Cigna worked with Omnicom agency OMD to develop the campaign.

It is Cigna's first time using the Microsoft HoloLens, but the health insurer has used virtual reality technology in other initiatives such as its virtual relaxation pod, which takes users on a 15-minute relaxation experience incorporating the Oculus Rift to raise awareness about stress and help users relax.

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