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Fitbit Enhances Its mHealth Platform With Twine Health Acquisition

Fitbit has announced plans to acquire Twine Health, giving its consumer-facing mHealth platform health and wellness coaching tools that could attract health systems and payers looking to improve patient engagement.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Fitbit is adding health and wellness coaching to its consumer-facing digital health platform, giving the company new mHealth tools to appeal to providers and payers.

The San Francisco-based company announced plans this week to acquire Twine Health, which develops online coaching tools for people with chronic conditions and to help in lifestyle interventions like weight loss and smoking cessation. The acquisition would give the maker of the nation’s most popular fitness wearable a direct link to coaching and engagement tools that clinicians and health plans are looking for in mobile health interventions.

“Twine Health has delivered powerful results for patients managing conditions like diabetes and hypertension - two key focus areas for Fitbit, which together affect approximately 105 million people in the US alone,” Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park said in a press release. “When combined with our decade-plus of experience empowering millions of consumers to take control of their health and wellness, we believe we can help build stronger connections between people and their care teams by removing some of the most difficult barriers to behavior change.”

“Together, we can help healthcare providers better support patients beyond the walls of the clinical environment, which can lead to better health outcomes and ultimately, lower medical costs,” he added.

Fitbit has long been the fitness wearable of choice for health systems and researchers looking to make the connection between health and wellness and clinical outcomes, with hundreds of pilot projects and programs launched to foster and improve patient engagement in care management plans.

READ MORE: mHealth Wearables May be Moving Closer to Clinical Acceptance

For example, last year Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles began handing out Fitbits to patients who’d undergone major surgery. Doctors said the device compels patients to track their activity, and will eventually give those patients and their care teams a platform on which to measure and improve their recovery times.

Also last year, the Scripps Translational Science Institute began handing out as many as 10,000 Fitbits to participants in the All of Us research program to help them track activity at home. The program, launched by the Obama Administration in 2015 and funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, seeks to capture personal health and activity data from one million participants “to learn more about how individual differences in lifestyle, environment and biological makeup can influence health and disease.

“As part of the global shift towards precision medicine, wearable data has the potential to inform highly personalized healthcare,” Adam Pellegrini, General Manager of Fitbit Health Solutions, said in a November 2017 press release. “Through this historic initiative, we will be able to see the role that Fitbit data can play on the path to better understanding how individualization can help to prevent and treat disease.”

Fitbit, meanwhile, has been taking steps toward clinical validation with a series of strategic partnerships.

In 2016, the company announced a partnership with Medtronic to integrate activity and sleep data with Medtronic’s iPro2 professional CGM platform and app, giving people with diabetes the ability to measure how activity and sleep affect their blood glucose levels. And last year, the company announced a partnership with Dexcom to co-develop new digital health tools for people with diabetes.

READ MORE: mHealth Innovation Takes Center Stage in FDA’s Digital Health Pilot

The partnership with Twine Health looks to add coaching to that mix – and it gives the healthcare provider a bigger role in the process. It would create a connected health platform that would enable doctors or health coaches to push personalized advice and education to the user when needed.

That combination would prove enticing to healthcare providers looking to better engage with patients with chronic diseases, as well as health plans looking to promote better health outcomes and self-insured businesses looking to improve employee wellness.

“We built Twine Health with the goal of putting people back at the center of their care, helping them take ownership of their health actions and outcomes with the continuous support of both clinicians and loved ones,” Twine Health co-founder and CEO John Moore – who will now become Medical Director of Fitbit’s Health Solutions group - said in the press release.

“Technology has a profound opportunity to facilitate this shift in behavior and give people the coaching they need to overcome the challenges that arise in daily life,” he added. “That potential becomes even more compelling when combined with Fitbit, whose brand and ability to engage and motivate a diverse range of consumers is incredibly powerful. Together, we can build a complete experience to optimize health at scale, across the full spectrum from prevention to disease management.”

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