The majority of companies in the U.S. now currently offer one or more wellness program. These programs range from the typical offerings, such as smoking cessation, stress management and exercise programs, to more unique ones such as mandatory recess during the day, offering nap pods or providing caffeinated pastries. (Yes, all of these really do exist in actual corporate workplaces!)

A survey published by the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investmens shows almost three-in-four companies (73%) use incentives to engage employees in health improvement, up from 63% in 2010.

Now insert the world of high-tech and startups into the wellness equation. With health IT venture capital funding hitting about $184 million in the first quarter of 2012, there's a lot of money being funneled into innovative approaches to health and wellness. The result is that emerging start-up companies have identified gaps in current wellness offerings and are creating products to address those needs. Let's look a couple of the next-generation wellness products hitting the marketplace today:

 

RealMealz

While healthy eating habits are encouraged through many wellness education efforts, there's often a lack of representation in an employer's suite of wellness offerings around cooking and meal planning. RealMealz (www.realmiealz.com) lets employers set up team challenges within their workplace and, through using their site, to compete to see which team can get the most points through cooking healthy, homemade meals.

 

Eligible

While some insurance carriers offer their own mobile applications, they can often be difficult to navigate and just as clunky as their regular website. Eligible (www.eligibleapp.com) hopes to change that. It offers a consumer-facing mobile application, currently in beta, aimed at helping individuals navigate the health care system.

Through secure interfaces with insurance companies, Eligible provides consumers with the details of their health insurance plans. Its application shows what's covered, visit limits, copay and deductible amounts. Additionally, the mobile app provides a find-a-physician functionality and financial tracking of health information, including health savings accounts.

 

BetterDoctor

BetterDoctor (www.betterdoctor.com) is reinventing the idea of the provider directory and integrating it with social and other publicly available data. While currently only in the San Francisco Bay Area, this site utterly supercharges the old provider directory. Linked into the insurance network of providers, it pulls in photos, biographical information, specialty information and even Yelp reviews. Then it goes a step further and allows an individual to book an appointment online.

 

Lumoback

Lumoback (www.lumoback.com) is another consumer-facing product, however it actually addresses an issue many employers see in their top 10 list of claims cost - back pain. It's a thin device that monitors your posture and lightly vibrates to remind you to correct your posture. Currently integrated with iPhone only, the associated phone app tracks all of your data, even animates your posture for you and allows you to download it to share with your provider.

 

HealthHero

HealthHero (www.gohealthhero.com) is a health game integrated with Facebook that rewards you for working out. While there are other applications that do something similar, HealthHero is automatically updated when a Facebook status is posted with the action verb describing your workout. Once a week, you log into the actual site and update any health statistics you wish to track, as well as your workout targets. Upon working out and engaging in fitness activities, you're awarded super hero status and perks. If you meet your fitness goal for a specified time period, you can earn gift card rewards.

These companies only represent the tip of the iceberg of what's coming out as entrepreneurs and innovators dive into the world of health. From mobile applications that quantify health measures to health financial literacy tools to actual devices that change the way medicine can be accessed on the go, it's undeniable that innovation is the health space is speeding up.

Contributing Editor Shana Sweeney is a self-proclaimed geek and political junkie with degrees in politics and human resources. She has no ties to any of the companies mentioned here. Sweeney is an SPHR with more than a decade of experience working in various industries. She can be reached at calshana@gmail.com.

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