Google embarks in digital health business via Fitbit acquisition

Google is entering the field of digital health. In early November, the firm of Moutain View bought the American equipment manufacturer Fitbit specialized in connected objects and physical activity monitors.

Google fitbitThe deal estimated at 2.1 billion USD gives Google control over Fitbit’s health solutions.

Simultaneously, it provides the firm access to employer-sponsored private insurance. Today, this allows 160 million Americans to benefit from their insurance coverage. Google’s knowhow in algorithmics and data analysis boosts the company one step ahead of its competitors.

A few months earlier, Fitbit announced that it would strengthen its cooperation with the insurer Unitedhealthcare. Back then, the latter had included the new Charge 3 watch in the list of equipment approved for its UnitedHealthcare Motion program.

This fitness program for employees is designed to improve their life style through exercising and reduce their health bills as assumed by the insurer. Unitedhealthcare Motion sets daily step objective for its members. If achieved, an advantage of up to 1.000 USD per year is disbursed into the Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) or Health Savings Account (SAH).

Three Fitbit watches are currently eligible for the Unitedhealthcare program: Fitbit Charge 2, Charge 3 and Fitbit Inspire HR. Unitedhealthcare Motion can be underwritten by medium and large companies operating in the U.S.

fitbitThe takeover of Fitbit is part of Google’s broader aim to access health data. The firm of Moutain View has recently been criticized for having too wide access to the health data of the members of the association Ascension Health. The agreement between the two parties, would involve the files of million patients.

Data from 150 hospitals and about 50 seniors' facilities were transferred to Google’s Cloud without informing the patients. The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services shall soon review the conditions of data collection at Ascension Health and their compliance with the law.

Google’s objective in this area is to develop, through big data and artificial intelligence, tools to assist doctors who can provide additional services or prescriptions and detect defects in the care pathway.

E-health: Google’s strategy similar to that of other GAFAs

In 2018, Amazon had already launched Comprehend Medical, a service dedicated to medical data analysis. The e-commerce giant later teamed up with JPMorgan Bank and the Berkshire Hathaway insurer to create “Haven” a joint health insurance company.

Apple has also made its Apple Watch eligible for the Unitedhealthcare Motion program. In early 2019, the company initiated negotiations with several insurers for the refund of its watch.

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