The partnership is another sign of the wearables company’s evolving business model.
Fitbit today unveiled a partnership with the health insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield, in a move that delivers discounts to more than 60 million beneficiaries and further cements the wearables company’s role in the health plan of tomorrow.
The deal brings Fitbit into a wellness program called Blue365, which is designed to help Blue Cross Blue Shield members “create and maintain healthy habits,” according to the insurer. As such, they may buy Fitbit devices at a reduced cost, including in a bundle that includes a gym membership. Employers may also buy Fitbit wearables in bulk or cover the tab for their employees.
Although Fitbit has inked similar agreements with insurers such as UnitedHealthcare and Humana, the news today highlights the continued significance of health plan partners to Fitbit’s business. As the Apple Watch and other smart devices have grown increasingly adept at monitoring and tracking activity, Fitbit has found promise in partnering with payers, who are eager to encourage preventive health and wellness campaigns that could ultimately lower healthcare costs.
“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, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s vice president of strategy and analytics, said in a statement.
For Fitbit, the move presents a strong sales opportunity, reaching a broad market of consumers who suddenly have greater incentive to buy a Fitbit rather than a rival wearable.
“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,” noted Adam Pellegrini, general manager of Fitbit Health Solutions.
Market forecasts suggest the wearables sector is slated to grow in the years ahead, building upon a long-brewing surge. But those reports also claim that it’s Apple, not Fitbit, who has become the apex manufacturer in the space. At the same time, however, Fitbit’s corporate wellness deal-making has prodded some analysts to praise its new and potentially lucrative path forward.
In 2017, the consumer-focused wearables maker Jawbone closed its doors, but not before a stunted attempt to enter clinical medicine. But that path could eventually prove a viable option for Fitbit, whose tech has delivered encouraging results in a study that aimed to monitor patients with cancer and predict their outcomes. Fitbit has also partnered with diabetes app maker One Drop, a step that preceded several similar clinical deals announced earlier this year.
According to its website, Fitbit also has relationships with Anthem, Cigna and other leading companies.
Such enterprise health partnerships often note that plan members may receive monetary rewards for hitting, say, a certain number of steps per day. Critics, meanwhile, have pushed back against the trend, arguing that insurers might use data collected through wearables to deny coverage.
Regardless, health-tech key opinion leaders and decision makers seem to agree that the future of healthcare will include wearable technologies, in whatever form they might come.
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