Fitness device maker Fitbit now will enter into HIPAA business associate agreements with corporations, health plans and self-insured employers that want to offer its wellness platform to employees.
The company aims to better support HIPAA-covered entities—and remove an obstacle to business opportunities. “We prioritize protecting our consumers’ privacy and keeping their data secure,” said James Park, CEO of Fitbit, in a written statement. “Our compliance with HIPAA safeguards formalizes this commitment, and, more importantly, it creates opportunities for more effective relationships with corporate wellness customers.”
Launched in 2010, Fitbit Wellness provides hardware, software and services to corporate wellness programs within the enterprise. Company representatives were not immediately available for additional comment. However, several industry observers responded positively to Fitbit’s HIPAA compliance announcement.
“A growing concern in the wearable space, or even the medical device space, is ensuring data integrity and privacy in line with HIPAA guidelines,” comments Drew Boston, a health strategist at Accenture. “Recent data breaches coupled with the exponential growth in new data acquisition tools, such as Fitbit, is prompting greater attention to risk management and this move reinforces the company’s compliance with the current published guidelines.”
Boston added that “to be a viable stakeholder in healthcare, digital health solutions need to operate within the regulated space and offer efficacious solutions.”
But, Fitbit’s compliance with HIPAA is not just valuable for corporate wellness programs and health plans, argues Bradley Merrill Thompson, an attorney at Washington, D.C.-based law firm Epstein Becker Green who counsels medical device companies on regulatory issues. Clinicians also stand to benefit.
“This is a big announcement in the sense that healthcare providers who are subject to these privacy laws have probably been reluctant to make use of products like Fitbit simply because the data management have not historically complied with the privacy laws to which they are subjected,” says Thompson. “By coming into compliance, it means that doctors and others who are regulated under HIPAA can more easily make use of the data. I think many in medicine are salivating at the idea of getting the tremendous trove of data that Fitbit represents, and connecting it to all sorts of therapeutic interventions as well as wellness management tools to assess the impact.”
Fitbit also announced on Wednesday that retail giant Target has selected Fitbit Wellness to help expand its corporate wellness initiatives for more than 300,000 U.S. employees. Under the partnership, Target will use the Fitbit Wellness program to motivate employees to “get moving” and host their own challenges.
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