Fitbit recently announced the release of a suite of apps and watch faces that integrate and connect the wearer with different healthcare companies, pharmacies and payers, specifically in the Diabetes, Oncology and wellness spaces.
● The Dexcom and One-Drop apps, for example, will stream data directly from the glucose monitor to the wrist.
● The Humana app will offer a rewards program based on health related goals.
This release comes a few months after Fitbit invested $6M in Sano, a tech startup that is pursuing a device for non-invasive blood sugar tracking. FitBit also acquired Twine Health – a cloud-based HIPAA compliant health platform dedicated to assisting patients with chronic diseases.
As previously stated by the company - Fitbit is betting big on healthcare, but is it enough?
Dexcom CGM, Now available on Fitbit – a win for Fitbit or for Dexcom?
What happened to wearables?
In 2014, it was assumed wearable technology will change healthcare within 5 years. Fitbits were selling like hot buns. Tech giants like Apple, Google, Intel and Samsung all joined in the game with their versions of smart devices and connected platforms that promised to leverage the newest technologies and sensors from tech and healthcare partners. This all prompts some questions:
How mature are wearables? When will they transform healthcare as we know it? Who will be disrupting the market with home diagnostics and remote monitoring? Who should I partner with?
From then to now - Is there a technology standstill?
Back then, we turned to the data for answers, and this is what we found:
Social media showed us that consumers stopped using their Fitbit after the first month because it had little effect on their life. They were also disappointed at the efficacy of new products and startups that promise calorie counting, blood pressure monitoring and EEG.
HCP and KOL discussions claimed that wearables will only work if they are geared at a specific condition and with proven efficacy.
Technology signals from clinical trials, patents and regulatory events all showed the same conclusion: there is still a long way to go, for many reasons, but the main one is technology.
- Simple metrics measured (such as heart rate and steps) still require additional data to create real decision support for most conditions. Other metrics, such as blood pressure and glucose, are simply not clinically grade.
- We still lack the efficacy and regulatory measures to allow for real clinical decision support and recommendations.
Fast forward to today…Fitbit stock is at 10% of its all time high; Intel announced leaving the space, and Qualcomm and Google are not rushing to release any new solutions. It seems like the Apple Watch is the only wearable that has really caught on, but as a tech aid more than a healthcare tool.
The race to win the sensor game is losing participants by the day, as it seems that some of the largest challenges are in a two headed race:
- Omron will be launching what is its closest version to smart watch to date, with blood pressure monitor (it will still rely on a discreet, yet inflatable band) and Samsung have recently patented a sensor of their own.
- Apple have teamed up with Alivecor to offer the first clinical grade EKG monitor strap for Apple Watch, and will be looking into integrating EKG into the watch itself.
- Apple and Fitbit backed Sano still seems closest to clinical grade non-invasive glucose monitoring.
Can Fitbit win Diabetes (or healthcare monitoring)?
With Fitbit and Apple being the only prospects in the game (even Novartis’ chairman called its collaboration with Google on a smart contact lens a “long shot”); it seems that we are still not getting much closer to using wearables as advanced measuring tools.
As long as there is no noninvasive breakthrough, Fitbit is yet another smartwatch that can run 3rd party diabetes management apps, and this launch will assist the brands of One Drop and Dexcom, who already have successful smartphones apps, even moreso than Fitbit. But there are many diabetes management apps that integrate with BGMs, such as the Roche acquired Mysugr and the highly acclaimed Glooko (which has caught the eye of Novo Nordisk).
This leaves Fitbit with insurance reward programs and wellness and chronic condition support using legacy metrics on a great, yet expensive smart watch. Is this enough to maintain sustainable growth in a very competitive, open source based, smart watch ecosystem? I don’t think so, and in that case, Fitbit better be holding a major non-invasive, discreet card up their sleeve.
Fitbit Versa - It’s a great smartwatch, but will still appeal only to fitness buffs and tech enthusiasts.
About Signals Analytics
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Written by: Avi Zuck