Last week, Fitbit announced that it was acquiring Twine Health for an undisclosed sum. The news came as a surprise to many who still think of Fitbit as primarily a consumer-facing wearable device company. But an increasingly large slice of Fitbit is Fitbit Health Solutions, the company’s employee wellness business. And for Fitbit Health Solutions, Twine Health — which itself pivoted toward the employer market a few years back — is a perfect fit.
“We were already intersecting in the market,” Twine CEO John O. Moore, who will now serve as Fitbit’s medical director, told MobiHealthNews. “The one thing we were being asked for by customers that we already had or that we were pursuing was ‘Alright, how do you tie into a more general wellness in our organization?’ and we didn’t have a clean answer to that.”
As Twine is integrated into the Fitbit Health Solutions business, employer and health plan customers will have access to both general wellness coaching and health coaching for particular chronic conditions, all with the goal of reducing employees’ healthcare costs and saving money for the payers.
“The brand that Fitbit has, its ability to engage, and its philosophy about behavior change are so incredibly aligned, but obviously it’s much more on the wellness and activity and prevention side. And we’re coming at it from the other more medical, more healthcare side. The winning solution is going to have to put those things together,” Moore said. “So in my eyes there’s no better path than this. I think we have the opportunity now to do the most exciting work in healthcare.”
Adam Pellegrini, Fitbit Health Solutions general manager, said the organizations also have a culture fit, as they both believe in the importance of building solid behavior change principles into intervention design.
“We have in our DNA a passion around behavior change, because that’s what Fitbit does on the consumer side,” Pellegrini explained. “So if you scan and you look for who really has a passion for behavior change on a connected health platform or digital health-wise, …you know John’s whole approach is really about connecting people to coaches in the context of a behavioral change intervention platform. I think that’s why this makes so much sense. All the stars line up.”
Pellegrini noted that Fitbit has already started to venture into chronic disease management through things like its partnerships with Dexcom and disease-specific social communities.
“We launched a social network on our app called Feed that has over 20 million of our users engaged, … and we proactively created groups, social groups in that feed around diabetes, hypertension, those sorts of things,” Pellegrini said. “And just this morning I looked. We have almost 10,000 active users in the Type 2 diabetes Feed group alone talking about how they’re managing their diabetes together. That is a social care group but not connected to care. The vision is our consumers can be connected to the healthcare system and can be connected in a way that leverages behavioral health, care teams, and all those fundamental things in connected health.”
Even though Fitbit still won’t work with very many hospitals, outside of research partnerships and hospitals that use Twine for their own employees, the acquisition signals an increasingly serious push beyond wellness and fitness for the company.
“We’re definitely going deeper into healthcare,” Pellegrini said. “I don’t say it’s a shift. It’s just we’re going across the continuum of care in a serious and meaningful way, and leveraging … the really amazing go-to-market opportunities that Fitbit Health Solutions has already gathered because of our work with 1,400 employers. This is very serious for us.”
For Twine, Moore said, the company simply wasn’t equipped to make it on its own. But it has strong technology, which Fitbit now has the means to scale.
“I think of it as akin to a marathon,” he said. “We just did all the training. It was a lot of hard work, we did all the practice, we figured out how to get the technique right. But we weren’t truly at the starting line yet of doing something that could transform healthcare in this country and in the world. We had the underpinnings of it, we knew how to get it done, but we didn’t have the engine to take that and put it out to the world. So now we’re at the starting line. It’s absolutely not an exit. It’s the beginning of something much bigger. And I can’t imagine another path.”