Fitbit to buy Twine Health to step up healthcare expansion

Fitbit has struck a deal to buy health coaching platform Twine Health. The takeover moves Fitbit deeper into healthcare by integrating its wearables with Twine Health’s employer-targeted workforce health software.

Twine Health has built its nascent business around software and accompanying services that help people meet their health goals. The process begins with the creation of a health plan designed to enable a person to meet particular objectives, such as getting their blood pressure down below a certain level. The software then sends reminders and connects the patient to their coach and doctor to drive the lifestyle changes needed to achieve the goal.

MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is pitching the service to employers that want to lower healthcare costs and boost productivity by improving the health of their workforces. Twine Health’s pitch is supported by data from small trials that suggest the approach drives decreases in blood pressure and HbA1c in patients with hypertension and diabetes, respectively.  

That caught the attention of Fitbit. The wearable pioneer is looking to healthcare to offset declining sales of the wristbands with which its name is synonymous. The rationale is that, while consumer demand for dedicated wearable health trackers may wane, employers are likely to remain interested in tools that cut costs. Fitbit devices go some way to achieving that goal by encouraging workers to be more active. But devices alone cannot set biomarker goals or provide the support needed to achieve them.

Twine provides Fitbit with this piece of the puzzle. Armed with the platform, Fitbit can potentially put a more compelling, clinically effective offer to corporate wellness customers such as Bank of America and IBM. The combination of wearable devices and a coaching platform could also enable Fitbit to win business from hospitals and health clinics.

Fitbit has warned its beleaguered investors the strategy is unlikely to provide a quick fix, though.

“Obviously it’s still in the very early days,” Fitbit CEO James Park told Fortune. “We’re starting to put together all the pieces. This acquisition of Twine also will help our momentum in building more of a bigger revenue business on the health side.”