The Fitbit Heart Study is part of the company's strategy to make easy-to-use tools, which will make more accessible the detection of a range of conditions. It aims to enrol thousands of people for the study, to be used in the company's regulatory submissions globally.
"Advancing research on innovative and accessible technology, like Fitbit devices, will lead to more tools that will help improve health outcomes and reduce the AFib's impact on a large scale," said study researcher Steven Lubitz, a cardiologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.
Fitbit wearables have the potential to speed up AFib detection. It's 24/7 heart rate tracking is powered by long battery life, which allows users to wear the device for several days at a time. This enables long-term heart rhythm assessment, even when one is asleep.
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 Fitbit Heart Study advances our heart health efforts. Long-term passive heart rhythm assessment with wide range of affordable devices, powered by 24/7 heart rate tracking technology, has the potential to improve early identification of AFib," said AEric Friedman, co-founder and CTO, Fitbit.
According to the company, to track heart rate, Fitbit devices use photoplethysmography (PPG) technology to measure the rate of blood flow directly from a user's wrist.
Theoretically, these measurements can be used to determine a user's heart rhythm, which Fitbit's algorithm will analyse for irregularities.
The study participants who receive a notification about an irregular heart rhythm will be connected 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.
Fitbit aims to provide users with both long- and short-term AFib assessment options based on their individual needs and is developing PPG and ECG tools that could offer both long-term assessment and spot-check AFib detection.
The company has completed the clinical trial of its new ECG feature and plans to seek review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and global regulatory authorities.