May 3, 2018

Our take: Fitbit just teamed up with Google. What you need to know

Daily Briefing

    Read Advisory Board's take on this story

    Fitbit on Monday announced a new partnership with Google that will integrate data from users' wearable Fitbit devices with EHRs.

    Your telehealth cheat sheet on wearables

    Details on the partnership

    Fitbit plans to use Google's new Cloud Healthcare API platform to connect the Fitbit's user-generated data with EHRs. In a press release, the companies said the majority of Google Cloud products are HIPAA-compliant.

    Fitbit hopes that providers will be able to use the data to gain a more detailed, holistic view of patients' health and to improve patient care, the companies said.

    Under the partnership, Fitbit also said it plans to use its recently acquired health coaching program, Twine Health, to improve patient care and management of chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

    Comments

    Gregory Moore, VP of Google Cloud's health care division, said that this partnership will move Google "one step closer" to its goal of "transform[ing] the way health information is organized and made useful." He added, "[T]ogether, we have the opportunity to deliver up-to-date information to providers, enhancing their ability to follow and manage the health of their patients and guide their treatment."

    Similarly, James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit, said that partnering with Google "gives us an opportunity to transform how we scale our business, allowing us to reach more people around the world faster, while also enhancing the experience we offer to our users and the health care system." He added that the partnership "will accelerate the pace of innovation to define the next generation of health care and wearables" (Spitzer, Becker's Health IT & CIO Report, 4/30; Arndt, Modern Healthcare 4/30; Baum, MedCity News, 4/30; Fitbit release, 4/30; LeFebvre, Engadget, 4/30).

    Advisory Board's take

    By Peter KilbridgePeter Kilbridge, Senior Research Director, and Greg Kuhnhen, Senior Director

    The announcement is intriguing—in part because it represents a strong move into health care by two companies, Fitbit and Google, that have been relatively quiet in this field.

    Google, for its part, has done little in the EHR interoperability sphere since 2011, when it discontinued its Google Health personal health record project. It recently re-entered the game with its Cloud Healthcare API, but that technology is still early in its rollout.

    Fitbit, meanwhile, is arriving late to the EHR party. Apple's HealthKit is a mature development platform that functions as an aggregator for data from all Apple devices, including the Apple Watch. Leading EHRs have already built integration capabilities using HealthKit's open APIs and are importing patient-generated health data (PGHD) from these devices today. In addition, data aggregators such as Validic enable streaming of data from numerous consumer devices—including Fitbit—to EMRs and other platforms.

    By teaming up, Google and Fitbit may be able to help solve each other's weaknesses. Google will benefit from Fitbit's wealth of PGHD, while Fitbit will benefit from Google's expertise in data science. In particular, Fitbit plans to leverage Google's capabilities in machine learning and predictive analytics to improve population health management. Their newly acquired health and wellness company, Twine, could benefit from these predictive tools as well.

    What might come of mining and analyzing device data in the Google ecosystem? Perhaps providers could find new and better ways of predicting physiologic changes associated with disease or exercise, or could associate activity patterns with certain online behaviors. We might also see an acceleration of existing trends in wearables: Some providers already use wearables data to help improve chronic disease management, while others use the devices to detect acute events such as seizures and arrhythmias or to improve patient engagement.

    Only time will tell how the Fitbit-Google partnership will shake out—but providers shouldn't wait to get started on integrating wearables into their own care. To learn how, check out our two recent research briefings:

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