Fitbit launches connected healthcare platform for insurance plans and employers

Fitbit launched a new connected health platform for insurance plans, employers and health systems, combining coaching, virtual care and personalized digital interventions.

Through its apps and wearable activity trackers, Fitbit aims to guide plan participants toward goals in weight management and tobacco cessation—as well as through the management of conditions including diabetes, hypertension, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.

The system, Fitbit Care, follows the company’s acquisition of health coaching company Twine Health earlier this year. A spinout from MIT’s Media Lab, Twine carried data from some small trials that showed digital approaches could help lower blood pressure and average blood sugar levels.

“Supporting patients beyond the walls of the doctor’s office is one of the most important things we can do to drive successful outcomes, and as a clinician I see great potential for Fitbit Care to help tackle some of the biggest challenges in healthcare and improve health outcomes at scale,” John Moore, M.D., Ph.D., Fitbit Health Solutions’ medical director, said in a statement.

Alongside the launch, Fitbit revealed that health insurance giant Humana will use the platform as the preferred coaching solution for its employer group plans, with its more than 5 million members gaining access through the Humana Employee Assistance Program and other avenues.

A 2015 study of Humana associates enrolled in Go365, the company’s rewards program, found that members who were actively engaged over three years had lower average claim costs and absenteeism rates. Since the companies partnered in 2013, members have used their health rewards points to redeem more than 170,000 Fitbit devices, the companies said.

The move comes as Fitbit looks to broaden its base beyond direct-to-consumer product sales. The new bundled subscription offering is aimed at the company’s more than 1,600 enterprise health customers, as well as over 100 health plans, according to Adam Pellegrini, general manager of Fitbit Health Solutions.

With a user’s consent, the Fitbit Care program will provide their real-time health data to care teams for more personalized recommendations, including guided workouts and motivations to make more healthy decisions as well as other interventions.

Coaches will be able to work with participants and providers through the new Fitbit Plus app, as well as over the phone and in person. The app will also support integration of health metrics including blood glucose, blood pressure and medication adherence, as well as data from third-party devices, the company said.

The same day, life insurance company John Hancock announced that it will only offer plans that incorporate digital health data and active wellness tracking.

In what it called “a departure from the traditional life insurance business model,” all its policies will come with Vitality, John Hancock’s behavior change platform that incentivizes healthier choices linked to physical activity and nutrition.

"For centuries, the insurance model has primarily provided financial protection for families after death, without enhancing the very quality it hinges on: life," said Marianne Harrison, president and CEO of John Hancock, which launched the Vitality platform in 2015.

The company pointed to lifestyle-related diseases becoming leading causes of mortality, and cited an Oxford Health Alliance study labeling physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, excessive alcohol and smoking as the causes of more than 60 percent of deaths and 80 percent of global disease burden.

John Hancock said its Vitality policyholders take nearly twice as many steps, generate 30% lower hospitalization costs and live years longer than the rest of the insured population

Editor's note: This story was updated with the announcement from John Hancock.