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Fitbit’s Amy McDonough Talks Wearables and Health Tech

Riya V. Anandwala, Director, Industry Communications, Consumer Technology Association

Fitbit Health Solutions’ SVP and GM Amy McDonough may not have a technical degree – but she has leveraged her liberal arts education to help bridge the tech and business sides of the company’s digital health operations. McDonough talked to CTA about her journey at Fitbit and the importance of building a culture that values feedback and listening.

What’s your career background?

I began my career working for media companies in audience development strategy, producing content and managing strategic partnerships. I then moved into independent consulting where I brought my channel sales, business development and marketing skills to local brands in the Bay Area, including several startups.

Funnily enough, one of my startup clients at the time was Fitbit. I’m passionate about health and used to run marathons, so when James Park and Eric Friedman recruited me to be one of Fitbit’s first employees and help grow the company, I jumped at the opportunity.

What is your current role and how did you start your career at Fitbit?

During my time at Fitbit, I’ve held many leadership roles across different parts of the business including business development, product, marketing and customer success.

In 2011, we started Fitbit’s Group Health division (now Fitbit Health Solutions), Fitbit’s first team dedicated to building relationships with corporations and health plans – from small- and medium-size to enterprise-level businesses. Today, I’m the SVP and GM for Fitbit Health Solutions, where I focus on implementing comprehensive health and wellness solutions for employers, health plans and health systems to increase engagement, improve health outcomes and drive positive returns on their investments in wellness. We’ve grown significantly to reach more than 1,700 enterprise customers, including 100 health plans.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs (or innovators) in the health/tech industry?

When you’re first starting a business, one of the most important things to do is to establish a culture that values feedback and listening – to customers as well as employees. Listening to customers is essential to solving for the unique challenges they face.

I’ve also been fortunate to have had many great mentors throughout the course of my career, including at Fitbit and through our partnerships in the digital health space. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of everyone buying into a shared vision and working collaboratively to all help one another succeed.

What are the greatest challenges facing the wearables industry, and how are companies tackling those challenges?

One of the biggest challenges we see is how to take the data we have – and continue to amass – and translate it into meaningful insights that can spur action and help drive positive outcomes for our individual users. For health care providers and organizations across the industry, we aim to be a partner that can seamlessly integrate with or augment their existing processes and workflows. For individuals, we give them access to their own health and wellness data and provide an intuitive experience that helps them reach their health goals.

Data collected using Fitbit devices in a clinical setting has the potential to help clinicians and researchers identify population health trends and better manage their patients’ care. For example, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center conducted a study demonstrating the role wearables can play for physicians as an effective tool in the postoperative clinical setting.

What upcoming trends in the wearables space are you most excited about?

Wearables have immense potential to be used as digital interventions to treat a variety of conditions through behavioral and lifestyle changes. It’s exciting to see that regulatory agencies are also thinking about how the space is evolving. Fitbit was chosen as one of nine companies to participate in the FDA’s new digital health software precertification pilot program to help determine a new pathway for evaluation of low-risk, high-impact tools. Establishing this pathway could potentially reduce the time and cost of market entry for digital health technologies and could help more people have access to products that help them live healthier lives.