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Google, Fitbit Partnership to Boost Wearable Technology, Data Use

The partnership will connect Fitbits to the Google Cloud API, making patient-generated health data from wearable technology available in some EHRs.

google fitbit wearable technology

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Google and Fitbit will now partner to deliver enhanced patient engagement technology and wearable tech use. The move will connect patient-generated health data with patient medical records, the two companies stated.

The partnership will leverage the new Google Cloud API, helping to connect Fitbit data to a patient’s EHR. The seamless transfer of health information will help providers access a more holistic view of patient health, ideally improving health outcomes.

Connecting wearable technology and other mHealth tools to the EHR has long been a goal for connected health experts. While wearables have been effective in engaging patients in their own health, these tools have not always connected to patient medical records, making the data wearables yield of little use to providers.

This latest move from Fitbit and Google will ameliorate some of those concerns. Google and Fitbit did not indicate to which EHRs they will seamlessly connect, but Vice President of Healthcare at Google Cloud, Gregory Moore, MD, PhD, did state that these innovations will make patient-generated health data more useful.

“At Google, our vision is to transform the way health information is organized and made useful,” Moore stated. “By enabling Fitbit to connect and manage key health and fitness data using our Google Cloud Healthcare API, we are getting one step closer to this goal. Together, we have the opportunity to deliver up-to-date information to providers, enhancing their ability to follow and manage the health of their patients and guide their treatment.”

Fitbit and Google will also work to improve patient activation in chronic disease management. Through an agreement with Fitbit’s recently-acquired Twine Health, patients and providers will be able to work together to manage conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

This new partnership will lead to more meaningfully used wearables and mHealth technology in the patient sphere, said Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park.

“Over the past decade, we have built an incredible foundation as the leading wearables brand, helping millions of people around the world make lasting behavior changes that improve their health and wellness through fun and engaging experiences,” Park said in a statement. “Working with Google gives us an opportunity to transform how we scale our business, allowing us to reach more people around the world faster, while also enhancing the experience we offer to our users and the healthcare system. This collaboration will accelerate the pace of innovation to define the next generation of healthcare and wearables.”

The Google and Fitbit partnership will leverage various best practices for health data and cloud security, the pair asserted. Fitbit will also have access to Google Cloud’s various health data analytics functions and population health management tools.

Both companies expressed excitement about the deal, stating that partnering together will help them scale their specific health offerings.

“Although we’re just getting started in this collaboration, we’re excited by what’s possible,” Google wrote in a separate statement. “To date, Fitbit has sold more than 76 million devices, built a community of more than 25 million active users and has one of the world’s largest health and fitness databases. We hope that by helping them take advantage of our highly secure platform and support for open standards, we can bring better health to more people around the world.”

This partnership comes at a time where connected health is advancing patient engagement across the healthcare spectrum. While some tools help improve patient-provider communication and patient access to care, wearable technology such as Fitbits are essential for patient empowerment and self-efficacy.

Fundamentally, fitness apps and wearables are controlled by the patient and are a tool for improving patient health. When patients use fitness wearables, they are in charge of making strides in their wellness and chronic disease management.

Research has shown that healthcare organizations that integrate mHealth tools into patient care yield better patient satisfaction. In fact, an April 2018 survey from Vanson Bourne found that 95 percent of hospitals that have incorporated mHealth into their patient engagement technology efforts saw higher patient satisfaction scores.

As more medical gadgets arrive on the healthcare scene, it will be important for providers to make those tools usable. While patients benefit from seeing Fitbit and other wearable data on their own, connecting this data with provider-facing EHRs will help to further enhance care and deliver on the promise of connected health.

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