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Discovery Vitality makes U-turn in earning Vitality rewards

By Angelique Ruzicka

This week Discovery made a U-turn in some of the ways in which Vitality members earned rewards points. The insurance company added that it would be introducing more opportunities to earn fitness points, including new categories for heart rate workouts, from 20 August 2016.

Dr Craig Nossel, head of Vitality Wellness, said the changes would only commence in August because they still required some system developments to be made.

These new rules and additions were made following feedback from members, some of whom complained on social media channels such as Facebook earlier this year after Discovery made changes on 1 January and 2 April. The changes applied to the way in which points were awarded for heart rates and some fitness trackers such as RunKeeper, TomTom and Strava were ditched as they weren’t compatible with Discovery’s software.

In its defence, Vitality explained that the updates to Vitality points earlier this year aimed to ensure that data recorded was both accurate and verifiable. Combined with this, categories for heart rate data were also more closely aligned to international and national guidelines to obtain the most benefits from physical activity.

“Within these guidelines, Discovery Vitality has reviewed processes to obtain and measure event, device and heart rate data in an attempt to address consumer concerns, and to ensure the right levels of continued participation in physical activity,” said the insurer.

Discovery maintains the latest updates are designed to encourage people to exercise regularly in a safe way. “Periodic refinements are important to ensure the model stays up to date and motivates the right health behaviour,” said Discovery Vitality chief executive, Dr Shrey Viranna about the changes.

Main changes to Discovery Vitality Rewards

From 20 August, Vitality members will be able to earn fitness points in the following new ways:

• By taking part in any timed and verified race event locally or internationally in the disciplines of cycling, walking/running, swimming and major multisport events;

• The popular 50 points category for tracking 5 000 steps a day is being re-introduced for those just starting out. However, Dr. Nossel assured Justmoney readers that the 50 points for 5,000 steps a day would apply to all members too and there were no qualifying criteria for earning points in this way.

• There will be a new heart rate points category for workouts between 60 - 69% and 70 - 79% of age-related maximum heart rate targets;

• Endurance and high performance athletes can apply to be part of a new category to earn points for longer duration workouts;

• For all Vitality Active Rewards members (excluding those in the new Endurance and high performance category), the weekly maximum goal will be lowered to 900 points (from 1200). The weekly maximum goal will remain 600 points for at-risk members with certain chronic conditions, health concerns during pregnancy or members aged 65+ with risk factors. “We realised the changes we made in April were too hard for some people. Dropping to 900 points will be motivational but the high performance category will still be at 1,200,” said Dr. Nossel.

Fitness devices – a reintroduction?

Tracking of heart rates on Fitbit are now accepted again by Discovery and Dr. Nossel admitted that Suunto was being added back and that Discovery was also working hard with TomTom to reintegrate it back onto the Rewards system.

“We apologise for the frustration,” added Dr. Nossel. “We’d rather be honest about it than pretend that it [the problems] don’t exist.”

Improving fitness

“Our goal is to encourage people to exercise in a way that maximises the health benefit. The more we do, the more we understand about the art of balancing desired shifts in behaviour with member sentiment and the more we can help people live healthier lives every day. Over time, we’re working to create a more personalised experience for all members who partner with us on their fitness journey, while applying our commitment to safe physical activity,” said Viranna.

Discovery pointed out that overall, activity levels amongst Active Rewards participants have increased by 25%, with even more pronounced shifts amongst the least active Vitality members as well as those at high risk (i.e. smokers and members with a chronic illness). The significant increase in physical activity is consequently expected to result in improved mortality outcomes and better in hospital experience for Active Rewards members.

“We have seen that members across all initial fitness levels are more physically active than they were before joining the programme, and we want to ensure that this is sustained,” Viranna said.

 Handy tip: Compare medical scheme benefits and get quotes through Justmoney here.

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