To get deeper into healthcare ecosystem, Fitbit blends enterprise and digital health sectors into one

By Heather Mack
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Fitbit’s activity-tracking wearables may be a common features of many corporate wellness programs – their products are currently in use by over 1,300 companies – but all those step challenges and healthy lifestyle motivators aimed at lowering healthcare costs still only make up about 10 percent of the company’s revenue. So, in order to best position their enterprise strategy, Fitbit is merging their group health and digital health business arms together.

At Fitbit’s Captivate event in San Francisco this week, the company officially announced a move they had alluded to during their recent first quarter earnings call: Fitbit Group Health and Fitbit Digital Health will now function as a singular entity called Fitbit Health Solutions. 

“We are integrating because of increasing traction in the healthcare space,” said Amy McDonough, who previously served as the vice president of Group Health and will now hold the position of senior vice president of Fitbit Health Solutuons. “Our charge as Fitbit Health Solutions is to take on a more significant role in helping not only employers, but also health plans, and health systems address the ongoing challenges of health engagement, prevention and care management.”

What that means, McDonough told MobiHealthNews, is Fitbit will take what they have learned from their eight years of experience in the employer space and, rather than reinvent new ways of approaching health plan and health system clients, carry over best enterprise practices that are infused with their growing understanding of digital health integration.

“There were already a lot of synergies there, and we realized we could be better organized around the business if we were working as one,” McDonough said. “We’re not dividing and conquering, but we’re finding ways to be better together.”

Adam Pellegrini, who was appointed Fitbit’s vice president of Digital Health in August, will serve as general manager of Fitbit Health Solutions. Before Fitbit, Pellegrini worked as Walgreens Boots Alliance’s vice president of digital health and was responsible for transforming how the pharmacy retailer approached omni-channel digital healthcare.

“When we talk about health solutions – and I’ve spent many years in the corporate wellness space, going back to analog pedometers  – there are a lot of ways it has changed,” Pellegrini said. “But what we see today is a lot of energizing of the wellness space and the impact that wearables have had.”

Pellegrini pointed to Fitbit’s expanding presence in research – it has been part of over 250 studies to date – and said it was a good reason to believe that Fitbit will play an increasing role in healthcare.

“What are the possibilities in this space as we go forward?” he said. “I want to hear what people are looking for, and we know there is a lot to learn as we go beyond walking programs.”

At the outset, Fitbit Health Solutions wants to be a one-stop shop for new enterprise clients.

“Looking into healthcare, we see a lot of opportunities to partner, and we want to be easy to do business with,” McDonough said. “We want to have a single point of content, and all opportunities across a continuum for health plans, employers and health systems. We want to be able to hit all markets at once.”
 
While it’s too early to say exactly how Fitbit Health Solutions will move forward in the coming months, McDonough said a potential example could be similar to what they have done with UnitedHealthcare, when they began offering a customized integration with the payer’s wellness program, Motion.

“This will also make it easier for clients and consumers to access data, and for organizations to measure their ROI,” McDonough said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all, of course, but we can develop ways to offer an integrated platform that can be used by employers. If there is going to be one person interacting with the system, it didn’t make sense for clients to have to divide their attention between two different services.”

As Fitbit has existing business clients to support, McDonough said the transition to Fitbit Health Solutions will be “an evolution, not a revolution.”

“We really have to think about how to take advantage of things that are working with our health organization partners like UnitedHealthcare. We want to figure out how to provide the same level of data and integration we have with enterprise systems into the healthcare ecosystem. The market is still very much in its infancy; this revolution of healthcare bringing in technology.”

As Fitbit CEO James Park said during the first quarter earnings call, the consumer and enterprise business may very well reinforce one another.

“Employee wellbeing, which includes not only physical health, but also social connectedness is increasingly becoming critical to overall corporate business strategy,” he said. “Wearables and connected health and fitness devices play directly into this trend and employers are increasingly taking notice and subsidizing these options.”What’s more, Park said, they could help keep the consumer device sales going.“We believe these two groups are connected in virtuous circle where a large installed network and focused health and fitness brand make us the partner of choice for enterprise customers and health ecosystem players and, in turn, enable us to sell more devices to consumers who want to be part of the same network as their family, friends and colleagues,” he said.