Industry Watch

RedBrick Health makes healthy habits fun

The tech firm uses gamification to get employees at big companies more active and engaged

By Beth Probst
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Staying healthy has its rewards — but there could always be more of them. For RedBrick Health, a tech firm in Minneapolis, having video game–like fun should be among those rewards. Focused on health care’s “gamification,” it offers large companies a technology platform to get employees more engaged in their health and encourage positive behavior.
The firm’s corporate customers like the idea of their health care costs shrinking as workers earn rewards for progressing from one level of health to the next by playing RedBrick’s games. “Many companies talk about using behavioral science, but we’ve actually built our products around it,” says Kurt Cegielski, the firm’s co-founder and VP of employer solutions. “This makes a difference. By understanding how we as humans develop habits, we can create products that can help people change their behavior.” 
RedBrick looks at health care from the perspective of consumers — and designs products they will respond to. One example is RedBrick Journeys, which offers digital coaching, of a sort. Players set up health goals that are charted out as a journey, similar to ones found in a video game. As they reach milestones, they win experience points and move on to the next level. By the time they finish, the goal is that they will have mastered a new behavior that will help them lead more productive, healthy lives. Unlike a workforce challenge, where one goal is set for an entire company, these journeys are customized for individual employees.
RedBrick also provides its clients with incentive recommendations and guidance on how to influence workplace culture. 
Since its founding in 2006, the firm has had to be nimble and adapt to shifting consumer expectations. With the continuing rise of smart phones and tablets, for instance, users increasingly have demanded immediacy. “We live in a mobile world, so we make sure that our product works on phones and tablets, engaging consumers whenever they want to access it,” says Cegielski.
Through the RedBrick Track feature of its platform, the company is quick to anticipate and integrate with popular thirdparty health tools. For example, its platform works with Fitbit, which offers wearable devices that measure personal metrics (such as the number of steps walked and the quality of one’s sleep) and MapMyFitness, whose apps allow users to track and store their running, cycling, and walking activity. Such alliances provide RedBrick’s users with flexibility and its partners with a growing client base.
Though the company foresees catering to midsize employers eventually, for now it primarily targets big ones (5,000-plus employees), working with health plans, private exchanges, accountable care organizations, and brokers. “Large employers lead in this space,” Cegielski notes. “Also, as a new company, we are trying to grow our business while providing strong outcomes.”
In June, RedBrick announced a partnership with Minneapolis-based Medica. With about 1.5 million members, Medica provides health care coverage in the employer, individual, Medicaid, and other markets in Minnesota and neighboring states. Starting in January 2015, its commercial client members will have access to a variety of tools in the RedBrick platform.
“We’ve always been interested in member engagement,” says Mark Werner, senior VP and chief clinical and innovation officer for Medica.
Werner anticipates a successful alliance with RedBrick resulting in increased overall health, better management of chronic conditions, and less hospitalization for Medica members. “What we loved about RedBrick is they are more than an interactive website,” says Werner. “They allow our members to personalize their health care experience.”