Fitbit, America’s leading producer of activity and fitness trackers, announced it has developed a HIPAA compliant wellness platform which it should corner the lucrative healthcare market.
The company has dabbled with health and fitness trackers for the healthcare sector for some time; however, until now one of the major obstacles has been the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which places a number of barriers the use of electronic devices capable of recording, storing and transmitting Protected Health Information (PHI).
No electronic device will ever be fully HIPAA-compliant, as compliance with HIPAA Rules is dependent on the actions of the users of the devices. Therefore, rather than being labelled a HIPAA compliant wellness platform, Fitbit announced that it ‘supports’ HIPAA compliance, having incorporated the necessary security measures – as demanded by HIPAA – to keep stored and transmitted data safe from prying eyes.
James Park, CEO and Co-Founder of Fitbit said,“We prioritize protecting our consumers’ privacy and keeping their data secure.” He added, “Our compliance with HIPAA safeguards formalizes this commitment, and, more importantly, it creates opportunities for more effective relationships with corporate wellness customers.”
The latest B2B wellness platform should be welcomed by healthcare providers looking to offer patients and employees the chance to join wellness programs, and also to make those programs more effective. The company’s wearable devices can help patients and employees improve their health, by engaging them and motivating them to become more active; thus reducing the risk of suffering ill health in the future.
Fitbit hopes that its secure wellness platform will be availed of by HIPAA-covered bodies, and that its devices will allow healthcare providers to keep a close check on the effectiveness of their wellness programs, without running the risk of breaching HIPAA rules.
Vice President and General Manager of Fitbit Wellness, Amy McDonough, stated in a recent press release, “We are excited about this new initiative and believe it will allow Fitbit Wellness to serve a broader market, and is another step forward in achieving Fitbit’s goal of empowering users to lead healthier, more active lives”.
Even though data saved by the fitness and activity trackers can now be shared securely – satisfying the HIPAA Security Rule – the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not permit the sharing of PHI unless consent to do so has first been received from the individuals using the devices.
Before data can be shared with any third party, official consent to share information must first be obtained from users of the devices. Users of the fitness trackers may be worried about the data that could potentially be shared with third parties, but Fitbit has confirmed that not all data recorded by, or entered into the devices will be shared.
For example, personal information saved by the device – such as heart rate readings and sleep pattern data will not be shared. Instead, only simple fitness metrics saved by the devices will be transmitted, such as the number of steps taken and daily activity levels.
In addition to sharing information on people, Fitbit also plans to offer insurers and healthcare providers the option of receiving aggregate data. McDonough says this data will allow many offices to compete with one another via the company’s wellness platform. She believes the new HIPAA compliant wellness platform has massive potential to help organizations develop “a culture of health.”
The announcement of the latest business to business offering coincides with the Fitbit Captivate Roadshow: A series of events aimed at increasing awareness of the benefits of the company’s wearable devices and also of developing wellness programs for employees and patients. The first event took place yesterday in Chicago, with the next event due to take place in Fitbit’s home city of San Francisco later this month. The last event in the Fitbit Captivate roadshow is in New York on October 13.