Health coaching has been gaining traction among employers. According to Wellable’s 2018 Wellness Industry Trends report, 76% of brokers reported that employers would invest the same or more in health coaching services this year, with large employers being the ones most likely to increase their investment. While other wellness program components such as step challenges or onsite fitness classes are seen as gateways into wellness, health coaching takes personal wellness to the next level by focusing on each individual's unique states and preferences. Understanding this trend, Fitbit released Fitbit Care, a connected health platform that delivers telehealth resources as a part of its Fitbit Health Solutions segment. The release did not come as a surprise, as Fitbit recently acquired Twine Health, an online health coaching platform, in February.
Health Coaching Investment Trend
Through the new Fitbit Plus app, users will be able to set up coaching sessions as well as sync data from their tracking device and blood pressure monitor. They will then receive feedback and guidance from both digital and human coaches. This one-on-one health coaching is referred to by the company as “personalized digital intervention,” something that takes wellness beyond the algorithmic world of step-tracking and into human connections. Coaches are trained in many important wellness topics such as smoking, weight loss, as well as serious conditions like hypertension or diabetes.
For now, the program is only accessible for employers, health plans, and health systems, meaning that individual users will not be able to participate. This is counter to Fitbit’s core consumer strategy, but it also signifies its aggressive push into employee wellness. Health coaching may be a smart strategy to enter employee wellness in a big way. Employers are investing in health coaching programs and studies show that they work. A HealthFitness study showed that coached employees reported a greater health impact compared to non-coached participants and realized an incremental 6.1% in cost savings ($586, or 11.3% of medical costs, compared to $261, or 5.2% of medical costs). One thing the study did not consider was the cost of health coaching.
Fitbit’s move to digital health coaching is also a part of a strategy to make its services and products “stickier” to users. As individuals work with personal coaches, they are probably more likely to stay motivated and engaged, helping Fitbit reduce the “abandoned device” problem. The coaches employ user data from Fitbit devices to monitor activities and nutrition, integrating the data into the center stage of the coach-client relationship.
"If there's one thing we notice about health and health improvements, it's that having an ecosystem of supporters coming from different areas helps make it all happen."
Ramon Llamas, Research Director with IDC’s Devices and Displays team
Humana health plan is already signing up for Fitbit Care as its preferred solution for health coaching for its 5 million members.