Fitbit conducts large scale study to identify atrial fibrillation using its wearable tech

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on May 08, 2020 Published on May 08, 2020

Fitbit on Thursday launched its Fitbit Heart Study, a large-scale, virtual study to validate the use of its wearable technology to identify heart activity suggestive of atrial fibrillation (AFib).

AFib is one of the most common forms of heart rhythm irregularities. The study will use Fitbit’s wearable tech to detect irregular heart rhythm suggestive of the condition,

“The study is part of the company’s broader strategy to make easy-to-use tools that accelerate detection of a range of conditions more accessible. The Fitbit Heart Study aims to enrol hundreds of thousands of people, and its results will support the company’s regulatory submissions globally,” Fitbit said in an official statement.

Until recently, tools for detecting AFib had several limitations and were only accessible if you visited a doctor,” said Steven Lubitz, M.D., M.P.H, principal investigator of the Fitbit Heart Study, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “My hope is that advancing research on innovative and accessible technology, like Fitbit devices, will lead to more tools that help improve health outcomes and reduce the impact of AFib on a large scale.”

How it works

Fitbit wearables have 24/7 heart rate tracking. The feature can allow the tool to record heart rhythm and detect irregularities that may lead to AFib.

“The optimal way to identify irregular rhythm through heart rate tracking technology is to screen when the body is at rest, making assessment overnight, while people sleep, ideal for detection,” the company explained.

“The Fitbit Heart Study advances our heart health efforts. Long-term passive heart rhythm assessment with our wide range of affordable devices powered by 24/7 heart rate tracking technology has the potential to improve earlier identification of AFib, which is a key to reducing the risk of a life-threatening event like a stroke,” said Eric Friedman, Fitbit co-founder and CTO.

Fitbit’s devices use photoplethysmography (PPG) technology to track heart rate. The devices measure the rate of blood flow from a user’s wrist.

This data will then be used to determine a user’s heart rhythm. Fitbit’s algorithm will then analyze this as part of the Fitbit Heart Study. Volunteers participating in the study will then be notified if an irregular heart rhythm is detected and will connect with a doctor for a virtual appointment at no cost to get more information and may receive an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch in the mail at no cost to confirm the notification.

The company is also developing PPG and ECG tools that could offer both long-term assessment and spot-check AFib detection.

“The Company has completed a pivotal clinical trial of its new ECG feature and plans to seek review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and global regulatory authorities,” Fitbit said.

The Fitbit heart study is open for users in the United States aged 22 years and older with a current Fitbit device that tracks heart rate. This includes Fitbit Ionic, Fitbit Versa family of smartwatches, Fitbit Charge 3, Fitbit Charge 4, and Fitbit Inspire HR. Users can enrol from the company’s website.

Published on May 08, 2020

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