Fitbit Manages to Show Corporate Wellness Effectiveness but Solution Still Lacking

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Written BY

Emily Friedman

November 3, 2016

Written by Special Guest Blogger Reginald Parris, Wearables Analyst, Lux Research

reginald-parris

Fitbit released a set of data to combat skepticism surrounding how wearable activity trackers actually improve health. The Fitabase Research Library lists more than 170 studies that have used Fitbit devices in one place. The company also sponsored a study by Springbuk that examined the return on investment of workplace wearables and found that the average reduced health care costs of employees was about $1,300 per person. The study followed 2,689 individuals over two years, including a control group and 866 employees who opted in and received partially subsidized Fitbits. Of those who opted in, 266 used their Fitbit for at least half of the program, and these users’ health care costs decreased by 46%. Amy McDonough, Vice President of Fitbit Group Health, said that the studies were “looking at everyone from 'low-steppers' – around 6,600 steps per day – to those stepping beyond the recommended 10,000 steps per day, and they are all getting a decreased health care cost.”Although Fitbit’s corporate wellness study appears to demonstrate a promising role for wearables in lowering employee health care costs, there are three reasons why the company’s reported figures from its latest study may be misleading.

  • Non-randomized control trial. Of the 2,689 individuals who participated in the study, the 866 employees who opted into the Fitbit group were compared with a non-Fitbit control group that consisted of participants who had similar ages, health conditions, and genders. While the study does compare Fitbit users to non-Fitbit users, those who opted to be part of the Fitbit group are more likely to be active individuals than those who did not opt in within the control group.
  • Unexplained health care savings in control group. While the study showed 22.5% in health care savings for the Fitbit user group, there was also an unexplained drop of 9.3% in health care costs for the non-Fitbit control group.
  • Difference in user activity skewed result of average health care savings. About 350 participants who wore a Fitbit for at least 274 non-consecutive days were the participants who saw a big reduction in medical costs. Participants who used the Fitbit for fewer than 274 days saw a less significant reduction in medical costs. Fitbit users who were more active, stepping beyond the recommended 10,000 steps, raised the average health care savings of the Fitbit group.

While Fitbit’s study shows that its corporate wellness solution can play a role in reducing employee health care costs, other developers offer more compelling corporate wellness solutions that may contribute to a greater return on investment. Fitbit's current corporate wellness solution consists of a program that recommends that every participant take 10,000 steps a day to improve their personal health. Other solutions often incorporate a common element, coaching, and target specific problems to provide personable insights for the user. Upright has a device that uses haptic feedback to improve posture and alleviate lower back pain along with a smartphone application to track progress. Some companies, like Omada Health and Blue Mesa Health, which target individuals predisposed to chronic diseases like diabetes, utilize wearable activity trackers in addition to wireless scales and personal health coaches to help users better understand their health choices in addition to keeping track of progress. Another example is Biobeats, which analyzes information from wearables and smartphones to identify stress and provide relaxation exercises. If Fitbit wants to offer a more effective corporate wellness solution, it should consider incorporating a coaching element in its solution to target specific problems, and partner with companies like PhysIQ so that it can provide more personable insights for its users. Those looking to develop corporate wellness solutions should look for options that include activity trackers that are combined with coaching or an outreach program to provide better insight for employees.Reginald Parris is a Research Associate at Lux Research. Lux Research provides strategic advice and ongoing intelligence for emerging technologies. Leaders in business, finance and government rely on Lux to help them make informed strategic decisions. Through their unique research approach focused on primary research and their extensive global network, they deliver insight, connections and competitive advantage to their clients.About EWTS 2017:The 3rd annual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2017 taking place May 10-12, 2017 in San Diego, California is the leading event for wearable technology in enterprise. It is also the only true enterprise event in the wearables space, with the speakers and audience members hailing from top enterprise organizations across the industry spectrum. Consisting of real-world case studies, engaging workshops, and expert-led panel discussions on such topics as enterprise applications for Augmented and Virtual Reality, head-mounted displays, and body-worn devices, plus key challenges, best practices, and more; EWTS is the best opportunity for you to hear and learn from those organizations who have successfully utilized wearables in their operations. Join the Enterprise Wearable Technology Community (LinkedIn Group)

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