Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Fitbit works to speed AFib diagnosis

Steve Rogerson
October 29, 2019

The Bristol-Myers Squibb-Pfizer Alliance and Fitbit announced at this month’s Time 100 Health Summit in New York that they are working together to help diagnose atrial fibrillation (AFib) with the aim of improving earlier detection in individuals at increased risk of stroke.
They plan to collaborate on the development of educational content and guidance to support people at increased risk for AFib. Upon submission and US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) clearance of the AFib detection software on Fitbit devices, the parties will aim to provide users with appropriate information to help encourage and inform discussions with their physicians.
“We’re in a new era of healthcare, where we’re not only focused on developing treatments but also looking at the potential of technology and data to help patients learn more about their health,” said Angela Hwang, group president of Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group. “We are excited about wearables and how our work with BMS and Fitbit may potentially help patients and physicians detect and understand heart rhythm irregularities.”
AFib is the most common type of irregular heartbeat and is a significant risk factor for stroke. Approximately eight million people in the USA are projected to be affected by AFib in 2019. As the US population ages, this number is expected to rise, as adults aged 65 and older are at an increased risk of developing the condition. Because AFib can be asymptomatic, it can often go undetected, and some studies suggest that more than a quarter of people who have the condition find out after they have a stroke.
“At Fitbit, we’re focused on making health more accessible and, through our efforts with the BMS-Pfizer Alliance, we have the potential to support earlier detection of atrial fibrillation, a potentially asymptomatic condition that affects millions of Americans,” said James Park, CEO of Fitbit. “With our continuous, 24/7 on-wrist health tracking capabilities, and our experience delivering personalised, engaging software and services, we believe we can develop content to help bridge the gaps that exist in atrial fibrillation detection, encouraging people to visit their doctor for a prompt diagnosis and potentially reduce their risk of stroke.”
Wearable technology has continued to become more integrated in the healthcare landscape as people have recognised the value that round-the-clock health tracking can have for people of any age or health status, including those at increased risk for specific conditions. Yet, those who use wearables to track their heart rhythm may lack the education or guidance on what to do with the data gathered from their device.
“Too many people discover that they are suffering from atrial fibrillation only after experiencing a stroke,” said Joseph Eid, head of medical affairs for Bristol-Myers Squibb. “In fact, some studies suggest that this is true for more than 25 per cent of people who have the condition. These efforts with Fitbit exemplify not only our unwavering commitment to addressing the evolving needs of patients with atrial fibrillation, but also our dedication to advancing care by embracing technology as a part of routine clinical practice.”