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Fitbit, Blue Cross Blue Shield Launch Connected Health Partnership

The agreement between Fitbit and Blue Cross Blue Shield of America aims to make mHealth wearables a staple of health and wellness programs.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Fitbit has forged another mHealth partnership in its bid to make the fitness wearables a staple in connected health programs.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has announced that it will include Fitbit in its Blue365 health and wellness program, giving more than 60 million members in 23 affiliated health plans and the Federal Employee Program access to the line of activity trackers and smartwatches.

Following collaborations with UnitedHealthcare and Humana, Fitbit’s deal with BCBSA gives the company a large footprint in the health plan market. It’s the latest in a long list of digital health deals designed to incorporate wearables into health and wellness programs and prod healthcare providers to factor them into care management services.

“There is no question that increasing activity and moving more is a tremendous benefit that can improve health, and I'm excited Blue365 members will have even more incentives to get and remain healthy by exercising at a pace that's right for them,” Mark Talluto, vice president of strategy and analytics for the BCBSA, said in a press release. “This strategic partnership will bring personalized health and wellbeing to the next level, allowing members to put their health first.”

“Fitbit provides a powerful platform to engage consumers by offering data, insights and guidance to help them meet their health goals,” added Adam Pellegrini, general manager of Fitbit Health Solutions. “This partnership is an example of how Fitbit is expanding access to our devices and software so that we can help more people focus on their health and wellness and achieve better health outcomes.”

Just three months ago, Fitbit unveiled several new apps for its Ionic and Versa smartwatches and announced a partnership with Google to push patient data from the company’s wearables into the electronic health record through the new Google Cloud API. Both moves were designed to give the company more traction in the clinical space.

Earlier this year, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA reported that healthcare providers can use Fitbits – and, by extension, other consumer-facing health and fitness wearables – in remote patient monitoring programs as long as they understand that the data derived from the devices isn’t medical grade.

The researchers found that data from these devices can be combined with clinically validated services, such as patient surveys, to help providers gain a better understanding of the patient’s daily activities.

“Here, the correlation between consumer grade activity tracker data and clinically used patient surveys demonstrates that these devices provide information about a patient’s state, despite the imperfections in the data,” the study added.

Fitbit executives, including Pellegrini, have long maintained that healthcare providers need to pay more attention to health and wellness as the industry moves from pay-for-service to value-based care. The challenge lies in creating programs and services that can measure results that, in turn, improve clinical outcomes.

“Providers … really want to have this type of information,” he told mHealthIntelligence in a December 2016 interview. “This is a very powerful educational [channel] that creates an awareness of how fitness and health play together.”

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