Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Fitbit picked for US research programme

Steve Rogerson
November 21, 2017

Fitbit has been selected as the first wearable for use in the All of Us research programme established by the White House in 2015. This project is funded by a supplement to a funding award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the Scripps research institute.
All of Us seeks to enrol one million or more participants to accelerate research that may improve the ability to prevent and treat disease based on individual characteristics. Researchers will use data gathered from the programme to learn more about how individual differences in lifestyle, environment and biological makeup can influence health and disease.
As a subset of the programme, Scripps leads the Participant Center, a unit tasked with enrolling and engaging diverse populations across the country. Through this network, Scripps will provide up to 10,000 Fitbit Charge 2 and Alta HR devices to a representative sample of All of Us volunteers for a one-year study. At the end of the study, the researchers will provide recommendations on how the devices could be more broadly incorporated into All of Us.
Additionally, the study will generate a data set that presents an opportunity to explore the relationship between health indicators such as physical activity, heart rate and sleep in conjunction with other critical health outcomes that will be captured as part of the programme.
“As part of the global shift towards precision medicine, wearable data have the potential to inform highly personalised healthcare,” said Adam Pellegrini, general manager of Fitbit Health. “Through this historic initiative, we will be able to see the role that Fitbit data can play on the path to better understanding how individualisation can help to prevent and treat disease.”
After evaluating consumer wearables in the market, the team selected Fitbit based on its review of peer-reviewed validation studies and the fact that Fitbit devices are said to be the most popular wearables in health research worldwide.
“The Fitbit devices selected track a combination of physical activity, sleep and heart rate parameters,” said Eric Topol, founder and director of Scripps. “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 programme.”
An analysispublished by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal found that Fitbit devices were the most commonly used tracker in biomedical research, including published work (89%), clinical trials (83%) and NIH-funded research (95%). To-date, more than 470 published studies have used a Fitbit device, which is more than any other consumer wearable brand, including use of wearables in areas such as diabetes, cardiovascular health, oncology, mental health and post-surgery.
“Most of what researchers know is based on intermittent snapshots of health in an artificial setting or based on personal recall,” said cardiologist Steven Steinhubl, director of digital medicine at Scripps. “Through this research programme, we’ll have access to comprehensive activity, heart rate and sleep data that may help us better understand the relationship between lifestyle behaviour and health outcomes and what that means for patients on an individualised basis.”