Fitbit and Google, in many ways, seem like a complementary pair. The two have had a partnership since last year, with Fitbit using Google's Cloud Healthcare API platform to connect patient-generated health data (PGHD) with EHRs. And they are both fighting against the health care moves of Apple and other Big Tech firms—Google does not have any commercially available fitness tracker or smartwatch on the market, and Fitbit has been steadily losing market share to Apple and other competitors.
Google has a lot of moving parts in its health care business strategy. Its Google Fit platform is essentially an answer to Apple's Health app, and its sister company Verily has its Apple Watch counterpart in the Study Watch. While the Study Watch isn't publically available, it recently received FDA clearance for an electrocardiogram (EKG) feature and is being used across various clinical studies in its Project Baseline initiative.
However, it is still lagging behind Apple in many ways. Apple already has a strong foothold in the industry given its robust brand reputation and the fact that 100+ million Americans already have its Health app installed on their iPhones. In addition, Apple also has HealthKit, 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 PGHD from these devices. Therefore, Google may need to make a move on the scale of their proposed acquisition of Fitbit to close the gap with Apple when it comes to generating business with large-scale medical studies and population health programs.
In health care, data is the new oil. Google's potential lies in its ability to leverage machine learning, predictive analytics, and its Google Cloud platform to aggregate, store, and analyze big data to improve population health management—and it needs as much data as possible to make that happen. While Google dominates consumer search and navigation, it is still searching for ways to tap into data streams that paint a comprehensive view of patient health and wellness (something that goes far beyond just the medical record). Fitbit offers tremendous value given how much health data the company has acquired.
Moving forward, Google will likely continue to seek out new partnerships with academia, employers, life science firms, health care providers, and insurers. For example, Google recently announced a 10-year partnership with Mayo Clinic, and Alphabet has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Oscar Health over the past few years. These business moves are not isolated events, and neither is the idea of acquiring Fitbit. In the same way that Apple has launched a multipronged approach to enter the health care industry, Google is playing to its strengths in hopes of building a data and device ecosystem to corner its share of the health care market.
My colleagues will be fully delving into Google's health care strategy in a webinar on December 5th at 1pm ET. Register today to make sure you don't miss out.
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