Fitbit is looking to solidify its presence within the healthcare industry with the acquisition of a health coaching platform developed by MIT researchers aimed at managing chronic conditions.
On Tuesday, the wearables manufacturer announced plans to purchase Twine Health, a Boston-based company that combines artificial intelligence with personalized coaching to assist patients with diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Studies conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Joslin Diabetes Center have found the approach can reduce glucose levels and lower blood pressure.
A spokesperson for Fitbit said the companies are not disclosing the financial terms of the deal.
For Fitbit, which has gradually moved into the healthcare space by integrating its wearables into wellness programs, the acquisition bolsters efforts to expand those services to providers and payers. A recent study conducted by Humana found that just 1.2% of the 4.5 million people enrolled in its wellness program activated an activity tracker, but 70% of those participants chose Fitbit.
Twine CEO John Moore, M.D., who will become Fitbit’s medical director, sees the possibility of using Fitbit’s established technology to build a “complete experience to optimize health at scale” to advance patient-centered care models.
“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,” Fitbit CEO James Park said in the announcement. “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.”
But the wearable manufacturer is also battling a sharp decline in sales along with questions about the effectiveness of activity trackers and remote patient monitoring technology. A literature review published earlier this year found wearable biosensors had no statistically significant impact on body mass, waist circumference, body fat percentage or blood pressure. The researchers advocated for more research and testing to determine the clinical effectiveness of wearables.
At the same time, Fitbit has shown interest in carving out a bigger space within the healthcare industry beyond wellness programs, and both payers and providers are increasingly interested in finding ways to use patient-generated data to improve care. In November, Scripps Research Institute announced it would use Fitbits for 10,000 patients enrolled in the National Institute of Health’s All of Us research initiative.
Fitbit is also one of nine companies participating in the Food and Drug Administration’s precertification program designed to streamline the regulatory process for digital technology.