Fitbit expands upon health, wellness partnerships, announces expanded support for Solera DPPs

Executives of the wearable maker gave a breakdown yesterday of the thousands of ongoing projects with clinical, research and employer business partners.
By Dave Muoio
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Fitbit’s busy morning may have been headlined by news of its latest consumer devices, but lately the wearables company has also had plenty to say on its inroads with health plans, clinical researchers and large employers. In fact, the company devoted a substantial portion of its press event yesterday to its ever-growing health services operations and a new deal involving Solera Health’s integrated digital diabetes prevention plans (DPPs).

“We’ve really started off, historically, focusing on helping our users with their fitness and health goals, whether it’s managing their weight, getting more active and fit, sleeping better, reducing their stress,” Fitbit CEO James Park said during a press event held yesterday. “But increasingly we’re helping people more with serious and chronic disease conditions, whether it’s diabetes, heart health, sleep disorders and mental health.”

Last week’s Q4 earnings call provided a general window into Fitbit Health Solutions’ progress — namely, that the division’s business grew by 8 percent in 2018, and aims to hit $100 million in revenue by the end of 2019.

Yesterday, Park and Amy McDonough, COO of Fitbit Health Solutions, offered a clearer picture of how the company’s business is distributed. According to the pair, Fitbit currently works with over 680 clinical research partners, including the University of Michigan and Dana Farber Cancer Institute; more than 1,500 employer customers such as Adobe and Domino’s; and over 100 health plans, including 42 Medicare Advantage plans spread across 27 states.

“Our ability to empower, inspire and incite behavior change with consumers is really applicable in the healthcare setting,” McDonough said during yesterday’s event. “When you think about behavior change, the lifestyle component of many costly and chronic conditions are really driven by a lot of those same behavior change methodologies. Our ability to be able to do that at scale is what really is attractive when you think about our ability to impact chronic conditions … and support that across the care continuum.”

To emphasize this point, McDonough delved deeper into one specific health partnership between the device maker and Phoenix, Arizona-based Solera, which offers a digital marketplace for chronic disease management programs.

Type 2 diabetes patients enrolling in community or digital DPPs through Solera’s platform have had the option to redeem and use a Fitbit device throughout the program since 2017. According to the companies, recent data analysis conducted by Solera of more than 1,700 patients who enrolled within the first three month’s of 2017 found significant improvements among Fitbit users’ weight loss at the one-year mark, compared to participants who did not redeem the devices. Further, Fitbit users reported an additional 60 minutes of weekly activity compared to non-users within the 10 to 16 week period, and continued to report at least 45 more minutes of activity within the six to 12 month timeframe.

Based on these data, McDonough said that the companies will now provide Inspire and Inspire HR devices to all Solera DPP enrollees, including those enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid plans.

“Our unique ability to connect individuals with the best-fit DPP to meet their needs and preferences, paired with Fitbit’s easy-to-use wearable devices, has the potential to significantly alter how populations approach chronic disease prevention and management,” Brenda Schmidt, CEO of Solera Health, said in a recent press release describing the new partnership. “We look forward to scaling this partnership further in order to help future program participants maintain and improve their health.”

Seeing as Fitbit is highlighting its health and wellness engagement to partners and customers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the company is also investigating its own consumer-focused approach to a wellness rewards program.

As briefly noted near the end of yesterday’s presentation by Fitbit Marketing VP Melanie Chase, Fitbit Rewards would allow users earn points for health activities steps, activity minutes and sleep that can be redeemed for goods or services from partner companies, which so far include Adidas, Blue Apron and Deezer. The program is currently being tested in the US with an ongoing beta set to wrap up on April 30, and is planned to launch as a premium service later on this year.

With these kinds of partnerships, incentive programs and new devices in hand, Fitbit’s big-picture health strategy is mounting a staunch resistance to those of its leading competitors — Apple, which currently leads the smartwatch market, and Samsung, which also unveiled its latest take on health wearables just last month.

The former of the two has also been dipping its toe into Apple Watch-powered incentive plans and , but has lately commanded the market’s attention thanks to its new ECG functionality and ongoing efforts to democratize patients’ health data. Samsung, on the other hand, has been pitching its platforms as the flexible backbone powering its partners’ health products, which range from smartphone-controlled insulin pumps to in-app meditation service integrations.