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Study: Fitbit Corporate Wellness Programs Cut Employer Healthcare Costs

October 5, 2016
by Heather Landi
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San Francisco-based company Fitbit, a fitness wearable device maker, announced study results that indicate two companies that deployed Fitbit corporate wellness programs saw healthcare cost savings and improved health outcomes of employees.

The two employers are Fitbit Group Health customers. In one study, Dayton Regional Transit Authority calculated the costs of its Fitbit corporate wellness program and determined that the program demonstrated $2.3 million in employer cost savings and healthy outcomes for program participants.

In a second study, Springbuk, an employer-facing health intelligence platform, evaluated healthcare claims and wearable device data for a self-insured employer over a retrospective three-year period. The Springbuk third-party analysis showed that after two years, employees who opted in to the Fitbit corporate wellness program incurred almost 25 percent less per person on average in total healthcare costs than a control group, o cost on average $1,292 less than employees in the control group.

The study results specifically focused on the use of Fitbit wearables in corporate wellness programs are in contrast to a recent study that found wearables do not help people lose weight as well as other studies that cast doubt about the effectiveness of corporate wellness programs. In a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that a randomized clinical trial conducted at the University of Pittsburgh utilizing werable technology didn't yield weight loss. The study authors wrote, "Among young adults with a BMI between 25 and less than 40, the addition of a wearable technology device to a standard behavioral intervention resulted in less weight loss over 24 months. Devices that monitor and provide feedback on physical activity may not offer an advantage over standard behavioral weight loss approaches."

Springbuk used three years of medical claims, pharmacy, biometric and activity data to analyze the effects of a corporate wellness program using the Fitbit platform on the employee population of more than 20,000 employees. The study established a baseline (before Fitbit) with the first year of data, then analyzed the impact of the Fitbit program over two years.

The Springbuk analysis of the self-insured employer found that after two years of the program, across a representative sample set of 2,689 individuals, 866 employees who opted into the program had healthcare costs that were on average 24.5 percent less than that of a control group’s—an average cost savings of nearly $1,300 per participant during the second year of the program. This is a significantly wider gap than the cost differential observed for the same individuals during the baseline year in which average costs for the opt-in group were only 7.9 percent less than that of a control group.

Of those who opted into the program, 266 employees who used their Fitbit tracker for at least half the duration of the program decreased their healthcare costs by 45.6 percent, on average.

“This demonstration of impact achieved by integrating Fitbit technology into an employee wellness program reinforces our belief in the power of health data and measurement in demonstrating ROI,” Rod Reasen, co-founder and CEO of Springbuk, said in a prepared statement. “The study shows that a combination of Fitbit activity trackers with a comprehensive wellness program can enable employers to see significant impact on their healthcare costs.”

In 2014, The Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA) made the decision to become self-insured and needed to maintain a strict focus on reducing healthcare costs. As a result, Dayton RTA launched a pilot program that integrated a partially subsidized Fitbit activity tracker for each participant, biometric screenings, health coaching, goal setting and participation incentive.

According to a Fitbit press release, Dayton RTA found that the program resulted in improvements in health outcomes for program participants, including an average decrease in LDL cholesterol levels of 12 points and an average decrease in glucose levels of 17 points, after year one.

After the pilot, Dayton RTA rolled out the Fitbit program to their 600-plus employees.

 “When you are a bus driver, sitting for eight hours a day is part of the job,” Mark Donaghy, chief executive officer of Dayton RTA, said in a statement. “We knew we had to get our employees moving to improve their health and our budget.”

According to Fitbit, more than 2.6 million Fitbit users, including employees at 70 of the Fortune 500, connect their data into population health and health management platforms comprising Fitbit's own corporate wellness solution, health plan platforms, management solutions and more.

 

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