July 1, 2008
CIGNA Creating a Virtual Health Care Community
Today CIGNA, a leading health service company, is announcing the development of a virtual health care community. This computer-simulated world is situated on a Second Life(R) island, where seminars, interactive displays, educational games and virtual health consultations help foster real and sustainable behavior change that improves health.
Developed by Method, a brand experience agency, CIGNA's virtual community provides 3-D video game-like interactivity that enables people to learn and interact anonymously with like-minded peers in order to positively change the way they live their lives. For example, the newly developed nutrition zone helps participants develop their nutrition knowledge, learn how to make healthier food choices, manage their weight and understand portion sizes and food labels - skills that will enable them to lead healthier, more energetic and productive lives. Stress, physical activity and sleep zones within the community will be developed following an evaluation of people's experience with the nutrition zone.
"As a health service company, we are always looking for new and creative ways to reach people with important messages about living a healthy and productive life," said Keith Dixon, Ph.D., president of CIGNA's health solutions unit. "With a social interactivity that extends beyond geographic boundaries, and an exciting and appealing visual experience, CIGNA's virtual community enables us to reach an entirely new group of people that might not respond to health education messages delivered through more traditional channels."
Upon entering the virtual health care community, visitors are welcomed by an avatar, which greets and leads them to the virtual seminar. Participants are able to communicate with each other by using text chat or voice through a headset and microphone. To make the presentation come alive and increase audience involvement, the presenter uses a number of 3-D props and graphics. For example, real-time voting about the fat content of particular food items encourages audience participation. To communicate specific steps on how to increase fiber intake, the speaker displays oversized illustrations of various fiber rich foods that should be eaten throughout the day. Following the seminar, participants are encouraged to explore interactive games, such as "The Fridge," where clicking on food items displays their nutritional labels, or "Whack-a-Food," where users compete with each other to test their knowledge of healthy foods. For specific questions, there is a nutritionist avatar available to explain how food labels work and where to pay attention when choosing items at the store.
"Using Second Life as a platform for the pilot, we created CIGNA's virtual world from the ground up, taking into account every detail of the potential user experience, examining how people best learn and retain health messages," said Claus Nehmzow, General Manager of Method. "Up until now, virtual worlds have been pegged as a niche phenomenon, but the work Method is doing with CIGNA illustrates how virtual worlds can be properly integrated with multiple channels and communication media to educate users and increase results on existing programs. This is the next big frontier."
"Companies are seeing measurable returns from using virtual worlds to create a more engaging communications experience with their employees and customers," said Carol Rozwell, VP and Distinguished Analyst, Gartner. "The key to launching and maintaining a successful virtual world is to clearly identify a targeted audience, determine their needs, understand how they learn, and design a user experience that encourages interactivity."
This is not the first time CIGNA has used computer generated experiences to help people better understand their health. In 2007, the company promoted and distributed the innovative videogame Re-Mission free-of-charge, to teen and young adult members with cancer and the doctors and facilities who treat them. Re-Mission is a videogame designed to help young people better manage their health while undergoing cancer treatment. Research has shown that the game, which was created by the nonprofit organization HopeLab, helps teens and young adults stick to their recovery regimens.
About CIGNA HealthCare
CIGNA HealthCare, a health service organization based in Bloomfield, Conn., works to improve the health, well-being and security of the people we serve. A leading provider of employee benefit services and programs, CIGNA HealthCare offers a broad array of medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmacy benefits plans and coverage. We also build and provide health and wellness coaching programs and consumer information tools designed to improve health and help people in their health care decision-making. "CIGNA HealthCare" and the "Tree of Life" logo are registered service marks of CIGNA Intellectual Property, Inc., licensed for use by CIGNA Corporation (NYSE:CI) and its operating subsidiaries, including Connecticut General Life Insurance Company. All products and services are provided exclusively by such operating subsidiaries, and not by CIGNA Corporation. For more information, visit www.cigna.com.
Method is a brand experience agency that helps business leaders harness the competitive power of design. With deep expertise in research, strategy, design and technology, Method offers a rigorous, intelligent approach to solving increasingly complex brand problems in the physical and digital realms. Method has enabled over 150 businesses to outperform competitors through unified branding and communications, compelling user experiences, and successful product and service development wherever customers can be found: on the web, mobile, print, advanced television and within physical and immersive environments. The firm has a blue-chip client roster that features brands such as Sony, Gucci, Microsoft, Visa, Comcast, Nike, Adobe, and Yahoo!, among others. Method has offices in San Francisco, New York, and London. Additional information can be found at www.method.com.