Using Fitbits to Further Precision Medicine: Fitbit, STSI Team Up

For the more than 23 million people (at last count) who currently use Fitbits, the devices might seem like they have little purpose beyond a user’s own daily life—beyond serving as a way to track weekly exercise and sleep habits, or to fuel weekly step competitions with friends and coworkers. But for researchers at the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI), Fitbits hold a key to understanding individual health—and to moving precision medicine forward. As mHealth Intelligence first reported, STSI will be giving Fitbits to as many as 10,000 people, and using the health data gathered to further their efforts in the field of precision medicine. “Wearable data has the potential to inform highly personalized health care,” Adam Pellegrini, general manager of Fitbit Health Solutions, said in a press release. “Through this historic initiative, we will be able to see the role that Fitbit data can play on the path to better understanding how individualization can help to prevent and treat disease.”

Participants in the program, who will be selected from across the country, will wear the Fitbits for a year. During that time, simply by going about their daily lives, users “will generate a data set that presents a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between health indicators such as physical activity, heart rate and sleep in conjunction with other critical health outcomes,” Fitbit’s press release notes. STSI will use the data gathered as part of their efforts to advance the precision medicine. As STSI Director of Digital Medicine Dr. Steinhubl puts it, “Through this research program, we’ll have access to comprehensive activity, heart rate and sleep data that may help us better understand the relationship between lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes and what that means for patients on an individualized basis.”

The Fitbit data collection project is part of All of Us, an Obama Administration National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative designed “to gather data from one million or more people living in the United States to accelerate research and improve health.” Per the NIH, “by taking into account individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and biology, researchers will uncover paths toward delivering precision medicine.” Fitbit’s press release notes that it is the first wearable device company to be selected for participation in All of Us; according to STSI, the company will be an ideal partner. “The popularity of Fitbit devices among millions of Americans, combined with their ease of use, including multi-day battery life and broad compatibility with smartphones, made Fitbit a natural choice for this pilot program,” explained STSI’s founder, Eric Topol. The All of Us study is just one of more than 400 to examine the use of Fitbits to improve health outcomes.

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the STSI/Fitbit initiative.

Click here to read the Fitbit press release on the initiative.

Click here to visit the All of Us site.

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