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Fitbit’s moving away from a simple step counter into health coaching as it faces competition from the Apple Watch

Fitbit’s moving away from a simple step counter into health coaching as it faces competition from the Apple Watch

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Fitbit
  • Fitbit has a plan to help it stay relevant as it faces more competition from companies like Apple and Garmin.
  • It’s launching Fitbit Care, a health platform that combines coaching, virtual care, wearable devices, and self-tracking to help employers’ and health plans’ employees and members get healthier.
  • For now, the program is just for consumers whose employers, health plans, or health systems opt into it.

Fitbit is making a move to become more than just a fitness device at a time when wearable competition is fierce.

The company on Wednesday announced the launch of Fitbit Care, a health platform that combines coaching, virtual care, wearable devices, and self-tracking.

Best known for its simple fitness band aimed at getting people moving, Fitbit is developing new products as its stock price has taken a tumble amid competition from companies like Apple.

After Apple debuted its new watch, which includes features like new heart-rate tracking and fall detection, shares of Fitbit fell earlier in September as much as 6%.

Here’s how Fitbit Care works: The platform encompasses Fitbit’s wearable band, which tracks sleep habits, activity, heart rate, and female health. Then, through a new Fitbit Plus app used on a smartphone users can get health coaching sessions and virtual care to help them reach a particular health goal, such as lowering blood pressure.

For now, the program is just for people whose employers, health plans, or health systems opt into it and pay Fitbit on a per member per month basis. That means individual people can’t sign up to use the program on their own, at least for now.

“With healthcare costs and rates of chronic disease increasing, there is a clear need for innovative tools and services to help people make the lifestyle and behavior changes necessary to reverse this trend,” Adam Pellegrini, the general manager of Fitbit Health Solutions, said in a news release.

For many Americans, their employers are the ones picking up the tab for their healthcare. More than half of the non-elderly population is covered by an employer-sponsored healthcare plan, and almost 80% of large companies are self-insured.

As healthcare costs go up, employers are the ones feeling the pressure. Some are starting to get fed up and looking for new ideas. Platforms like Fitbit Cares are one of those ideas. In addition to employers, Fitbit said that about 5 million Humana members – those in its employer group segment – will have access to Fitbit Cares coaching.

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The former CEO of GE pinpoints the moment he realized healthcare was his problem

The former CEO of GE pinpoints the moment he realized healthcare was his problem

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Jeff Immelt, the former CEO of General Electric, can pinpoint the day he understood that employee healthcare was his problem.
  • Large employers like GE are on the hook for the healthcare expenses of their employees.
  • In 2009, Immelt realized GE was spending $3 billion annually on employee healthcare, which was more than the company’s healthcare unit was even earning.
  • “If you employ a workforce and offer benefits, your business IS a healthcare business,” Immelt wrote on LinkedIn.

Jeff Immelt’s employee healthcare problem began in 2009.

Immelt, then the CEO of General Electric, learned that his company had spent $3 billion annually on healthcare for employees. That was more than the company’s healthcare unit was making, and was more than the company had spent on steel.

“The day I had that realization was the day that employee healthcare became my problem, and solving it became my mission,” Immelt wrote on LinkedIn on July 26.

For many Americans, their employers are the ones picking up the tab. More than half of the non-elderly population is covered by an employer-sponsored plan, and almost 80% of large companies are self-insured . As healthcare costs go up, employers are the ones feeling the pressure. And some are starting to get fed up.

And, as Immelt noted, national health expenditure grew by at least 5% in the 2000s.

But as healthcare costs have gone up, employers are the ones feeling the pressure. And some are starting to get fed up, prompting some of America’s biggest companies including Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon, and JPMorgan to start to do something about it.

So Immelt worked on ways to get a better hold on how much the company was spending on healthcare and why. The company set up different metrics and made it a higher priority for its executive team. it started to talk about employee healthcare on a quarterly basis rather than once a year.

“Our benefits program went from being a mess of irrelevant metrics to having a simple formula for success-dollars spent per employee vs. employee absenteeism,” Immelt said. By the end, Immelt said, the company reduced healthcare costs by 20%.

Beyond his work at GE, Immelt currently serves as the chairman of health IT company Athenahealth, and said in the Linkedin post that he’s joining the board of Collective Health, a startup that helps employers build out health plans that fit their needs by adding technology with the hope of making tasks ike submitting claims and reading bills easier.

Immelt seemed optimistic that employers and their leadership can take on the rising cost of healthcare.

“If Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon have made one thing clear, it’s that CEOs can tackle the thorny issue of healthcare,” Immelt wrote.

“Because, if you employ a workforce and offer benefits, your business IS a healthcare business.”

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