Everyone wants to be healthy and in good shape, but getting motivated to actually achieve and maintain that goal is, of course, much harder. It’s a number told in various grim statistics reflecting our collective health — only about 25 percent of Americans get enough exercise, two-thirds of Americans are overweight, 1 in 10 are diabetic and a third are pre-diabetic according to the CDC.
It’s a long-festering problem that is ruinous for the individual and costly for the system — and also one that Paceline founder and CEO Joel Lieginger is looking to solve. In a recent conversation, Lieginger told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster about Paceline’s plan to pay people to get healthy by offering tangible monetary incentives for consumers who exercise — consistently.
“We’re building this for the next-generation connected consumer.” Lieginger said. “The whole idea of our credit card is to incentivize and further consumers’ personal health and wellness journeys.”
The entire system has been designed to simplify the process by bringing fitness and financial rewards together into a single ecosystem with a next-generation credit card that rewards consumers for staying fit.
Where most card rewards are typically linked to spending, Paceline’s rewards are triggered by working out, verified by a personal fitness tracker like an Apple Watch, Garmin watch or a Fitbit, for 150 minutes per week, spread out across three separate days. Lieginger said that rewards are an approach that has served to help card companies change Americans’ shopping, dining and travel habits over the last two decades, so it was time to create one that could provide the push to change consumers’ health habits as well.
Creating A Connected Wellness Ecosystem
The team at Paceline aren’t fitness experts and don’t claim to be, Lieginger told Webster, and take their recommendations from the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization. The exercise is verified by the platform using wearable fitness devices, which report that a consumer’s heart rate was elevated for the correct amount of time over the correct span of days — data that consumers consent to share with the app.
What the company then does, he said, is use that data to reward the consumer progressively over time. The 150 minutes a week, he noted, is a baseline performance to access rewards — the more often and more consistently users work out, the richer their rewards become over time.
What the consumer does in terms of exercise doesn’t matter, he said, as long as it raises their heart rate. The goal, and what Paceline has seen borne out in testing, is to give customers one more reason to be active — a push to work out one extra day a week, or push themselves to work out a little bit longer.
The trickiest thing about working in the health and wellness world, Lieginger said, is that it is not actually possible to fix health by trying to fix healthcare. Most of what we call “healthcare” is actually “sick care,” based on pulling people out of a bad outcome. The goal, he said, needs to be finding a way to keep people healthy from the outset.
What the firm has been pleased to see, so far, is that financial rewards are very effective in getting people who were working out two days a week to start working out three days or more. The platform now has thousands of people who are either over, or approaching, a 52-week workout streak.
These people aren’t athletes, he said — they are just regular people with a better incentive structure supporting them. And while Paceline is starting with credit cards — because that is the firm’s most frequent point of interaction with consumers — its eventual goal is to expand to other financial services, like insurance (where Lieginger’s pre-entrepreneurial background is).
“A lot of innovation here because of the connected economy and connected consumer is the idea that we can use innovation to increase access and inclusion of all types,” he said. “And that is really what we’re looking to do, not just in credit cards, but also into insurance to create more value for society.”
What that offering might look like, and whether Paceline will be looking to underwrite policies or working partnerships with a provider, Lieginger wouldn’t say, noting that we’ll “just have to stay tuned and wait and see.”