One of the recurring themes that we’ve covered in the past two years is that fitness wearables are going to have to pivot to health and medical applications in order to survive. Selling devices one at a time to fitness enthusiasts is not a strategy for long-term growth. Major clients such as self-insured corporate employers, healthcare services, and insurance companies will see bottom line returns on their investment, and will purchase the devices by the container load.
One more data point to support this analysis has now been provided by the U.S. Army. They have announced that they will be purchasing 540 Fitbit Charge 2 fitness trackers at a total cost of about $81,000. And they will not be buying them from retailers; the Army is purchasing the devices directly from Fitbit. So how will the Army use these fitness trackers? Will it be to optimize physical training for combat forces? Nope. The purchase will be used to expand the Military Health System home health monitoring pilot programs. The order will be split evenly between the Walter Reed National Medical Center and the Brooke Army Medical Center. The fitness bands will be used to monitor patients that are at high risk of hospitalization, and the continuous monitoring will provide more data on activity, heart rate, and sleep than is currently gathered when the patient meets with healthcare professionals in a clinical setting. Why the Fitbit Charge 2? It is the only device so far that has been proven to interface reliably and accurately with the government’s Mobile Health Care Environment electronic records system.
This is an important step for Fitbit in its efforts to gain credibility in health and medical applications. It also is an important step forward for telehealth services in general, and should help prove the case for cost savings and improved outcomes that can result from better information about patients when they are away from clinical settings.