In bid for new users, Fitbit expands Solera partnership
- Fitbit said Wednesday it is expanding its partnership with integrated health network Solera Health, potentially bringing a Fitbit device to Solera’s 100,000 individuals already enrolled in a national diabetes prevention program. Solera expects to enroll 250,000 more this year, according to CEO Brenda Schmidt.
- The development is part of the wearable's bid to grow its health business, which Fitbit CEO James Park said in the company’s Feb. 27 earnings call is projected to grow to approximately $100 million in revenue in 2019.
- Early wearables entrant Fitbit faces competition from players like Apple and is pushing to broaden its revenue streams by digging deeper into healthcare.
The partnership with Solera, a company which aims to connect patients with digital programs to manage chronic disease for health plans and physicians, is one piece of the $100 million revenue goal for Fitbit Health Solutions, COO Amy McDonough told MedTech Dive, pointing to other partnerships including with insurers like Humana and UnitedHealthcare.
By giving patients an entry-level Fitbit, the hope is to get them to "buy up," she said.
"The number of users that have access to an Inspire device, part of the Solera network program, we see a strong percentage of those buy up, meaning they pay out of pocket because they want a more full featured or advance device," McDonough said.
While the promise of wearables in improving health is far from proven, that hasn't tamped down efforts.
Under the partnership, Solera sends individuals who complete four weeks of a diabetes prevention program a coupon for a Fitbit Inspire or Inspire HR. The goal of the partnership is to have participants use the wearable device to encourage increased physical activity and weight loss.
Schmidt says 81% of those enrolled in a diabetes prevention program reach the four-week mark, qualifying for a Fitbit. Of those 78% redeem it for a device.
One concern raised about wearables is that physicians often don’t know what to do with data being collected. Karl Poterack, Mayo Clinic's medical director of applied clinical informatics, warned at HIMSS the data has limited clinical applicability due to a lack of quality research and the significant number of wearables not reviewed by FDA.
In September, Apple announced it was adding an FDA-cleared electrocardiogram application to its latest Apple Watch, a risk factor for Fitbit called out in its recently published 2018 10-K. McDonough said Fitbit’s price, cross-platform compatibility and partnerships with health plans are ways the wearable company is trying to compete.
It is clear Fitbit is looking to get into FDA-approved devices. Park told investors the company is collecting clinical data to develop and test FDA-grade systems for health conditions like atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea.
But Schmidt said for Solera the lack of FDA validation for Fitbit devices distributed in the partnership is of little concern because the company is not using it for clinical diagnosis or management. For Solera, the value comes from the non-self-reported data it uses to understand what moves the needle on behavior change.
"I think Fitbit make a more concerted strategic business decision to become a health care company as opposed to just a wearable company," Schmidt said.
Solera currently has more than 50 million contracted lives for diabetes prevention programs. Schmidt said the opportunity to enroll more individuals in diabetes prevention programs will grow as more states add the benefit to Medicaid like New York, Oregon and Maryland recently did.
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