|Fitbit wearable fitness device--Courtesy of Fitbit|
Self-insured employers have a huge stake in their employees' wellness, since they have to pay more for sick staff. A startup is betting that employers will want to use every possible personalized tool to encourage healthy habits in their workers. Jiff, an enterprise platform for digital health programs and wearable devices, has secured $18 million in a Series B.
Jiff offers competitive games, health reward and digital health coach programs for companies and their employees through smartphones and wearables like FitBit.
The idea is to add a bit of a carrot for healthy employee actions in the form of fun and prizes, but it could raise thorny privacy issues. How much detail do employees really want their employer to know about their weight or when and how they eat, sleep and exercise? And will employers and insurers be privy to the myriad health data-points that employees themselves increasingly collect and manage for everything from blood glucose levels to genetic testing for disease risk?
In August, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) released a statement urging the Federal Trade Commission to push for individual opt-outs before personal health data collected via apps and devices is provided to third parties, such as insurers and employers who could use it to discriminate against the user. Prior to that in May, the FTC held a seminar specifically on privacy concerns regarding consumer-generated and controlled healthcare data, so the agency's awareness of the issue is quite clear.
Still, the startup and its backers are betting that rising healthcare costs will make this sort of monitored, employer health encouragement a must. About half of all Americans are insured through their employer. And self-insured employers spend about 30% of all U.S. healthcare dollars, or about $670 billion, according to the company.
Jiff enables employers to offer digital health tools to employees, collect their data and use that data to build personalized programs.
"Just as iTunes provided a platform for digital music, Jiff is the platform for digital health programs and wearables, offering employees choice and smart recommendations," Jiff CEO Derek Newell said in a statement. "This, in turn, makes it easier for companies to provide these technologies, create healthier workforces, and bring down their healthcare costs."
Venrock led the financing round, with participation from Aberdare Ventures and Aeris Capital. Jiff has raised $25.8 million in venture capital since it was founded in 2010. Last year, Jiff partnered with HR and financial consultancy Towers Watson, to gain access to their clients.
"The investment in Jiff is consistent with our strategy of focusing on companies that help employers get more value for their healthcare investments," Venrock Partner Bryan Roberts said in a statement. "All employees are different so incentives should be too, and Jiff is the only platform that allows employee level personalization. And that's just the beginning of what Jiff is working on."
- here is the release