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October 7, 2016

FitBit goes on the offense, shows its worth in healthcare

FitBit wants to show that it can contribute to improve a person’s health condition. The leading maker of fitness related wearables such as smartbands has faced a lot of skepticism when it comes to the usefulness of physical data collected by consumer wearables.

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A lot of negative media publicity was created following a JAMA article that posited wearables actually hindered weight loss. Now Fitbit tries to counter these negative headlines by announcing its new Fitabase research library and the results of a corporate wellness study. By offering a more robust set of data the wearable vendor wants to validate its usefulness, writes Mobihealth News. 

The Fitabase Research Library, was compiled by research facilitation partner Fitabase. It basically puts every single research study or trial that has used Fitbit for collecting data in one place. Since partnering with Fitbit in 2012, Fitabase has been helping researchers develop studies with Fitbit’s full range of consumer wearable devices. Along the way, researchers often ask them for examples of studies similar to theirs. The library currently has 163 different published studies that mention using a Fitbit (or a few of them) as part of their study design.

 The pace of research using the wearables has been accelerating every year, according to Ernesto Ramirez, director of research and development at Fitabase.  “So we wanted to make it a public resource where anyone who wants to explore Fitbit research can have a one-stop shop. It’s meant to be a library down the street, and it will continue to grow as people do more research,” he told MobiHealth News. Only peer-reviewed and published studies are accepted. The library aims to be proof of the rigorous research and development that goes into studies using Fitbit, as well as the devices themselves.

Wearables reduce health costs employees

Fitbit also announced the results of two studies that looked at the impact of Fitbit on healthcare costs. The company sponsored a study by Springbuk on unlocking ROI (return of investment) of workplace wearables, following 2,689 individuals over two years. The analysis found that the average cost of employees who opted into a workplace Fitbit program was reduced by nearly 25 percent (about $1,300 per person).

Amy McDonough, VP of Fitbit Group Health told MobiHealthNews in an interview that cost savings can be reached quickly. “It really shows you don’t have to go all out and get to 10,000 steps a day to get healthcare costs savings. You are able to see incremental improvements even at a lower level.”

Wearables in corporate wellness programs

Recently market researcher ABI stated that wearables are becoming an increasingly important part of corporate wellness programs. Early data suggests that corporate wellness programs with wearable devices increase average employee participation from 20 percent to between 60 and 70 percent, with some employers reporting participation rates above 90 percent.

Wearable fitness device vendors, including Fitbit and FitLinxx, have stepped up from just offering devices to pushing integrated wellness offerings with initiatives to drive employee engagement and provide measureable feedback from corporate program participation. The combined efforts of wearable device manufacturers to health insurance providers will help push more than 44 million wearable devices into wellness plans over the next five years, finds ABI Research.
 

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