We learned not long ago that Google is acquiring Fitbit. It’s easy to see why.
Data and users may sound like the main consideration for this deal, but there is more at play.
Hardware meets software
Over the last several years, Google has shown its appetite to increase hardware offerings. The idea is that consumers are attached to their gadgets and creating detailed transactions in such devices. Products such as Nest, Google Pixel (mobiles) show the promise of hardware for Google. Combined with Google Assistant software, it becomes clear how data from such devices can influence behavior or empower you with new information or new actions.
Expanding hardware – wearables
It is no secret that Google plans on bolstering its presence in wearables – notably smart watches. According to the FT, the deal for Fitbit is an attempt by Google to catch up with the Apple Watch by buying a consumer wearables company.
This allows the company to expand into the wearables category while feeding it algorithms from search and products that it’s famous for.
Yet, before the Fitbit acquisition, it wasn’t clear how this all aligns specifically to healthcare for Google especially considering public knowledge of the company’s laser focus on Google Cloud B2B offerings.
Notwithstanding, moonshot research projects in diabetes and kidney disease prediction via Verily, it was still years out with a go to market product.
With B2C in the company’s DNA, it was in dire need of a healthcare product already in the market. As such Fitbit fits the bill – a wearable product, direct to consumer, ability to integrate existing software ie Google Assistant, captive user base and an enterprise customer base that includes rich insurance payers and government entities who manage millions of consumers.
Digital health investments continues to grow. Funding reached an impressive $8.1B in 2018, an increase of 42% from 2017 according to a Rock Health year end report with average deal size at $21.9M.
While that is the case, what is particularly interesting is the new wave of partnerships involving traditional health care incumbents and digital health disruptors across the entire B2B2C health ecosystem. This makes sense considering the time to market for digital health disruptors (new entrants) to launch, go to market and prove clinical validation. However it’s not always new entrants looking to tap into a large customer base (ie access to Insurance members), sometimes it is the opposite – incumbents (particularly Big Pharma) looking to tap into digital health subscribers and a formidable new marketing channel.
Below are three examples of such partnerships which essentially are integrated product marketing plays designed to tap into large consumer segments.
- Castlight Health (Digital Health Disruptor) and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield (Insurer).
- According to this press release, Castlight Health and Anthem developed Engage which is an information portal for insurance members. First and foremost, it offers access to information on all of the doctors and hospitals in a member’s network. In the offering is online guidance and support on health care questions, after-hours health care support and advice on out of pocket costs for lab tests, procedures and prescription drugs. Engage launched in 2018 to Anthem’s ASO accounts (self insured large accounts) and already has over 20 large employers on the platform.
- American Well (Digital Health Disruptor) and Philips (Medical Devices)
- Philips is leveraging American Well’s expertise in telehealth to offer consults to it’s product users. According to this press release, the relationship now in progress starts with offering the telehealth consults directly on Philips Avent uGrow parenting app which provides parents advice on monitoring their baby’s development for more than 12 million subscribers. Available on both ios and and android devices, a key feature of the partnership with Philips uGrow is letting parents share data and receive personalized advice from/to healthcare professionals such as a pediatrician via American Well online or via mobile phone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- 23andMe (Biotech Disruptor) and GlaxoSmithKline (Pharma)
- Genetics-testing company 23andMe partnered with pharma company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to use subscribers DNA data to develop medical treatments according to this press release. Under the deal, GSK and 23andMe enters into a four-year collaboration under which GSK will become 23andMe’s exclusive collaborator for drug target discovery programs. The companies will use 23andMe’s database of more than 5 million customer genetics data to explore drug discovery and targets for development.