Bridging The Great Divide Between Fitness And Healthcare

(Graphic by Results Redefined.) In the post-COVID world, health, wellness and fitness will accelerate toward more significant digital and virtual engagement.

(Editor's Note: This sponsored article is part of the Club Industry report, "The Future of Fitness Is in Healthcare Integration," which can be downloaded for free by going here.)

Two years ago, I retired from my position as the CEO of a large health club chain to pursue my passion for integrating healthcare and fitness. My goal was to help reduce healthcare costs, deliver measurable solutions, and improve accessibility and quality of care for the well-being of the member/patient.

In meeting with medical groups and health insurance executives, I found three reasons for the great divide between the fitness and healthcare industries, as well as a lack of coverage for prevention provided by health insurance companies:

1. Trust

  • Many medical professionals have had bad experiences with fitness leaders and believe they focus more on the business side of things instead of committing to improving the long-term health of their patients. 
  • Health clubs tend to focus marketing on attaining short-term "sexy" goals—getting a six-pack, preparing for a wedding, etc. —instead of more sensible ones that prioritize sustainable and long-term health and wellness.

2. Lack of time/experience  

  • Both industries face the same financial challenges posed by new competitors, as well as the downward pressure on membership and medical reimbursement fees. 
  • Both industries have operated the same way for decades and lack the resources to truly innovate. Companies stick to tried-and-true methods to generate income without having the time to overhaul their respective business models.

3. Clinical Studies

  • Although the products and services provided by the fitness industry improve health, the industry has never commissioned clinical trials to corroborate it. If these positive health outcomes can be quantified and directly correlated to monetary savings in the insurance industry, it could inform and reshape future best practices for both industries.

We need to overcome the obstacles preventing these two industries from working together. We need a four-wall presence in conjunction with advanced technological strategies to leverage data and engage stakeholders digitally through financial incentives in an unconventional manner. We need companies that focus on these aspects:

Four Walls. Medical clinics that strategically partner with large fitness and medical groups to create medical-based products and services that are reimbursed by insurance and complement both groups. These include hormone replacement, medical weight-loss, physical therapy and blood testing, as well as others. These services help to:

  • Increase revenue and profits.
  • Provide improved experience and level of care for members and patients.
  • Lower healthcare costs.

Technology. We need companies that integrate fitness products and services with health insurance companies and other reimbursement programs that:

  • Enable consumers to access products they will receive a financial benefit from using, no matter where they exercise (gym, community center, home, outdoors, etc.).
  • Increase revenue, lower administrative costs and streamline processes for health clubs by providing access to their members. Health clubs and their members receive financial rewards from health insurance and reimbursement programs. This technology allows both parties to earn rewards, even if health clubs must close due to anything from road construction to another pandemic.
  • Make fitness equipment vendors a vital component of the healthcare ecosystem, rather than just a cog in the system. When it comes to selling their products, vendors currently face a race to the bottom. However, if they integrate meaningfully into the fitness and healthcare ecosystem, equipment vendors can directly generate income for their clients, leading companies to realize the clear financial benefit of working with them.

Within the next 10 years, fitness and healthcare organizations in their current form will find it difficult to compete and stay relevant. As unfortunate as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, I anticipate a bright future as companies realize they can no longer work in silos and need to adapt and extend services beyond their four walls. Consumers are embracing technology and recognizing that proactively maintaining their health is important in preventing and fighting diseases. And health insurance companies are reaching across the table to find creative ways to reimburse customers for a healthy lifestyle.

In the post-COVID world, health, wellness and fitness will accelerate toward more significant digital and virtual engagement. I am optimistic that stakeholders in the health ecosystem will be better connected and prepared to support whole health for consumers.

BIO

Jeff Skeen is CEO and principal of Results Redefined, which integrates the fitness and healthcare industries to lower healthcare costs and make healthcare affordable. Prior to working in the healthcare industry, Skeen spent more than 26 years serving as a principal, CEO, CIO and CFO in several large fitness organizations. During his tenure in the fitness industry, he has been instrumental in more than $800 million in transactions, one of which was the acquisition and ownership of Gold’s Gym International. For more information, email [email protected].

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