Fitbit has had talks with the NHS about wearables

Lynsey Barber
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US fitness band maker Fitbit spoke with UK health executives (Source: Getty)

Fitbit, the troubled US tech firm behind wearable fitness trackers, has held talks with the NHS it has been revealed.

The firm's co-founder and chief executive James Park said talks had taken place with executives in the health service over a tie-up, speaking to the Sunday Times, but no firm plans had been agreed.

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A deal with health insurer UnitedHealthcare in the US saves users cash in terms of a cheaper premium based on how much exercise they take using data monitored from the wristband.

Talks with the NHS were regarding something similar, Park told the newspaper.

The NHS has turned to apps already, with Umotif becoming the first tech company to have their app prescribed to patients, and several further tech companies are planning to roll out apps in future trials.

UK startup Babylon is working with the NHS to trial a chatbot for non-emergency queries as an alternative to the 111 phone line, while Google's DeepMind is trying to help doctors ditch paperwork with its health records monitoring app.

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Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the NHS would "make very big moves in the next 12 months into apps and wearables" late last year. NHS England now has an app library which recommends reputable health apps to patients.

Wearables were once seen as an up-and-coming area of technology but have gone off the boil in recent years after failing to live up to the hype as a consumer must-have device.

Fitbit has been forced to make serious cutbacks, slashing jobs and lowering its guidance for the year. It has lost more than 80 per cent of its value since its IPO in 2015. The firm is now seeking to work more with businesses wanting to provide "wellness programmes" for employees, health insurers and other parts of the healthcare system in a bid to turn the company around.

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