Google, Fitbit collaboration aims to deliver comprehensive health data to care teams

By Dave Muoio
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Fitbit and Google have entered a partnership focused on better leveraging wearables and cloud-based technologies for digital health, the companies announced this morning. The effort will be largely focused on refining EHRs to give medical practitioners a comprehensive look into a patient’s health during treatment, according to a statement from Fitbit.

“Over the past decade, we have built an incredible foundation as the leading wearables brand, helping millions of people around the world make lasting behavior changes that improve their health and wellness through fun and engaging experiences,” James Park, cofounder and CEO of Fitbit, said in a statement. “Working with Google gives us an opportunity to transform how we scale our business, allowing us to reach more people around the world faster, while also enhancing the experience we offer to our users and the healthcare system.”

Among the biggest news to come out of the announcement is that the wearable maker will be using Google’s Cloud Healthcare API to more smoothly integrate its day-to-day user health metrics within a patient’s EHR. Adam Pellegrini, GM of Fitbit Health Solutions, told MobiHealthNews that the revamp of Fitbit’s infrastructure not only allows the company to more securely manage and transfer users’ health data across entities, but that it will drive more informed and coordinated clinical decision making.

“Data exchange is one piece, but it’s the fact that we can enable doctors, care managers, dieticians, health coaches, all to work together in a care team format using this type of healthcare API; [that we can] tear down the silos of health information by bringing in [EHR] data and also bidirectional data,” Pellegrini said. “I think this will enable us to really create a fantastic healthcare professional experience, and in my mind that’s how I picture this as being different.”

While Fitbit has largely focused its efforts on fitness and wellness, Pellegrini stressed that the wearables maker has been continuously looking to deepen its relationship with health plans and healthcare systems — not just employers and insurers interested in wellness programs.

A clear example of this is the February acquisition of Twine Health, a digital coaching platform focusing on the management of chronic conditions. That acquisition will also be boosted by today’s announced partnership and the implementation of the Cloud Healthcare API, Pellegrini explained, as Twine’s platform will soon be better able to help clinicians and patients better collaborate on care for chronic conditions such as diabetes

While the announcement came with promises to “innovate and transform the future of wearables,” Pellegrini and a Fitbit representative were hesitant to describe the specifics of Google’s potential impact on the former’s flagship products outside of the possibility of further OS and software refinements. Pellegrini did, however, hint at the impact Google’s AI and machine learning expertise could have on data collected through these devices and uploaded to a patient’s EHR.

“Really the most exciting thing to me is the leveraging of their AI and machine learning capabilities [to] do predictive analytic algorithms,” he said. “If you think about the fact that we have some of the largest health and fitness databases ever, in history, leveraging machine learning and AI on top of data, from a healthcare perspective, we can actually predict who needs help first. You can be proactive in care, and you can be efficient in care.”

As part of the deal, Fitbit as a whole will be moving its efforts onto the Google Cloud Platform, according to a statement. This transition will come with services and engineering support to help Fitbit scale more quickly, as well as improve its data security and privacy, thereby accelerating the Fitbit Health Solutions business and permitting secure population health analysis.

In a Google blog post, Dr. Gregory J. Moore, VP of healthcare with Google Cloud, said that the collaboration fits within the company’s overall vision of the healthcare industry, and shows how the company’s technology can drive improved health outcomes at scale.

“Although we’re just getting started in this collaboration, we’re excited by what’s possible,” Moore wrote in the blog post. “To date, Fitbit has sold more than 76 million devices, built a community of more than 25 million active users and has one of the world’s largest health and fitness databases. We hope that by helping them take advantage of our highly secure platform and support for open standards, we can bring better health to more people around the world.”Adidas Tubular Boost