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Key Health Industry Organizations Join Serious Games Community

A bandwagon seems to be forming among health insurers concerning serious medical video games.

Recall that CIGNA was one of the major forces behind the Re-Mission effort, partnering with HopeLab’s Pamela Omidyar, wife of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Now, it appears other major health insurance companies are poised to encourage development of video games that promote good health.

Health insurer Humana Inc. is trying a new medium to encourage its members to lead healthier lives -- video games. The new initiative has the potential to revolutionize the way Humana engages consumers by providing them guidance and motivation in a way that is interesting and exciting.

“Giving healthcare consumers the ability to become more closely connected with the management of their health through video games is a unique way in which to accomplish Humana's goal of helping members become both mentally and physically healthy,” said Grant Harrison, vice-president of Humana's Integrated Consumer Experience.

A team has been established within Humana’s Innovation Center to find the best ways to connect with consumers using game technology. In collaboration with Serious Games pioneer Digitalmill Inc., Humana is evaluating all aspects of the games for health space. Humana is also sponsoring students from the University of Southern California’s GamePipe Laboratory for advanced research and development of new game interfaces in an effort to tie real world exercise to virtual worlds.

Additionally, Humana is working with Touchtown Inc. to develop a new service to transform the way wellness and fitness programs are delivered in senior facilities. This new service will use state-of-the-art gaming technology to improve the coordination, endurance and physical health of older adults. A similar approach is planned to address obesity in children through entertaining exercise technologies.

“We know that electronic games are here to stay,” said Harrison. “When you think of video games, you typically think of “couch potatoes” sitting in front of the TV, playing for hours. We don’t see the future that way. We see health games changing behaviors, basically the way families learn and engage in physical activity to improve their health.”

In order to better understand the influence of game technology on consumers, Humana is working with Ben Sawyer, co-founder of the Games for Health Project and J.C. Herz, an expert in social networking and multiplayer online worlds, to address the opportunities to close the gap between electronic games and health.

“One of our goals with the Games for Health Project was to see key health industry organizations, such as Humana, join the community and make their considerable knowledge, leadership, and partnering resources available,” said Ben Sawyer. “More importantly, Humana has expressed its dedication to understanding the industry and getting it done.”

Humana believes it can transform the game medium into a healthy part of consumers’ every-day life. “Right now, there are few impactful games directed towards consumer health,” remarked Dr. Miguel Encarnação, Humana’s Innovation Center Director of Advanced Human-Media Interfaces. “Our research will help us identify and develop game-based projects that will improve consumers’ health and captivate their imaginations.”

Humana's video gaming activities began this month with more developments planned throughout 2008.

With both CIGNA and Humana now behind serious games in the health sector, look for increased development of products with low profit motivations, but high health ed expectations. Results will be measured in fitness rather than bucks. Hopefully some good research will come out of these efforts as well.

About Humana

Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the nation’s largest publicly traded health benefits companies.

Humana offers a diversified portfolio of health insurance products and related services - through traditional and consumer-choice plans - to employer groups, government-sponsored plans, and individuals.

Over its 46-year history, Humana has consistently seized opportunities to meet changing customer needs. Today, the company is a leader in consumer engagement, providing guidance that leads to lower costs and a better health plan experience throughout its diversified customer portfolio.

With a customer base of over 11.5 million in the United States, the company is the third largest Fortune 500 company in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, with a market cap of over $10 billion dollars and $21.4 billion in revenue. Humana employs over 22,500 "associates" nationwide. Humana markets its health benefit consumer services in all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico and has international business interests in Western Europe. In its March 2007 issue, Fortune Magazine named Humana one of the Top 5 Most Admired Healthcare Companies in the United States.