Moving Beyond the Quantified Self – Interview with Christine Robbins, CEO BodyMedia

Edited by Kim Krueger & Sophie Park, Health 2.0Bodymedia

In a world where big data plays an important role of monitoring individual health care and wellness, Health 2.0’s CEO and Co-Founder Indu Subaiya had an exclusive interview with Christine Robbins, CEO of BodyMedia on the future of health care in the marketplace as well as the role of big data. As we all know, BodyMedia was recently acquired by Jawbone – and we’re excited to have Christine joining us on the famous “3 CEOs” panel at the 2013 Annual Fall Conference to tell us more about it. Here’s a preview of what you should be looking forward to:

Indu Subaiya: We’re really excited for the Health 2.0 7th Annual Fall Conference and of course, I’ve been following news about you and BodyMedia over the last two months, which is really exciting.  Congratulations on the acquisition.

Christine Robbins: Thank you. We’re on to the next chapter.

IS: That’s just amazing to me because BodyMedia in and of itself has had so many chapters and we’ve followed you almost from the very beginning.  But what would be great is [if you could give] us an overview of the last year. When we saw you at Health 2.0 last — what you were beginning to present at the earliest stages, I believe, were data that BodyMedia had collected that could then be used in partnership with health plans and larger healthcare organizations.

CR: Let’s start with where we were last fall – BodyMedia’s history has always been more medically and clinically oriented. Technology, in this particular case, personal health related technology, has become more main-stream.  I truly do believe it’s moved beyond the Quantified Self and even those of us who were in the space, the products are still evolving, and the solutions are evolving.  But, you start to see some of the more traditional healthcare outlets and players knowing they need to play in this technology space and so over the last year and half, two years, we had been approached by a number of them.

Probably the most notable is Cigna.  As we now know, these pairs have many different facets to their business that they offer into the market, and where we were finding a sweet spot – where the technology could really begin to play a different role- was on the clinical side. In partnership with Cigna, we actually have several pilots going on.

We’ve got a couple of other players in the space too that are a very similar vein.  They’re waiting for some new innovation we’re launching here in the next couple of months and then we’ll be rolling out with them as well.

IS: That’s an interesting kind of B to B to C model, if you will, in working with health plans and employers.  And now, you’ve joined forces with — from what I understand, at least — more of a direct B to C company, Jawbone. How do you see the sort of new incarnation of BodyMedia working and does it coexist peacefully with the original kind of B to B model?

CR: Sure, BodyMedia is a standalone company.  We were a bit of a split personality in some respects.  But when I came on board four years ago, what I did in partnership with the management team is to build this business as what I call a professionally endorsed consumer business, or a B to B to C model.

And so, there’s this interesting convergence going on between pure consumer products and medical products and the professionally endorsed business models.  This is something we deployed very consciously four years ago with BodyMedia, and a more significant portion of our revenue was actually through endorsers. Less than half of our revenue is actually on the pure retail side, and even a lot of that was driven by what I call an implied endorsement.  For instance, our partnership with “The Biggest Loser”.

So that’s really a very conscious thing to build the business that way, and we’ve been quite successful in forging that path. Now, as a merged entity with Jawbone, it really brings together the best of both worlds, right?  They’ve got great consumer prowess, great design, great marketing, really understanding consumer engagement and user engagement.  Then, you combine that with the healthcare and the science and the clinical aspects of BodyMedia.  It’s a real powerful thing.  If you think about it, patients are consumers too, and they don’t want to be treated as if they’re sick or as if they’re different than everybody else.  They want the cool, sexy thing that everybody else was using. If you can take those assets and roll them into a more healthcare oriented solution, you really increase your chances for engagement and ultimately, outcomes.

IS: On the technology front, will there be — there is some overlap between what the sort of physical Jawbone product measures and what BodyMedia devices measure.  Will these technologies remain separate or will there be some exploration of integration?

CR: I think it’s fair to say that one is a single sensor platform, one’s a multiple sensor platform, one is a registered FDA device, all the BodyMedia and we’ll continue to be so.  And, one is more of a lifestyle non-registered FDA device and will continue to be so.

IS: What do you think about the future partnerships in this space now for the merged company?  Will you be looking at some of the folks that are doing tracking without a device, specific device or other categories?

CR: Well, I think this affords us an opportunity to step back now and say, what is going to be our focus, our strategy in healthcare as a new merged company and even more broadly in helping wellness?

I think the reality is, there’s a spectrum here of solutions and needs. We’re trying to work through what our partnership strategy is going to look like, what we want to own as an entity, and really develop end-to-end, and what we want to partner and enable in the marketplace.

This market’s going to move faster that we could on our own, so we’re trying to be smart and figure out what is right for the market, what’s right for our shareholders and then — that the partnership is going forward.

In this space, there are so many people with great technologies, great entrepreneurs, and yet, so many needs in the marketplace.  It’s almost physically impossible for any one company.  You can think about the big consumer brands or even the big healthcare brands in our country.  They don’t have all the capabilities to provide truly end-to-end solutions, so it’s going to require partnerships.  It’s going to require people being really good at certain parts of the solution and then finding the right partnerships to bring products to market in collaboration.  That’s a really interesting dynamic that you don’t see in other categories and industries.

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