Fitbit users can now check and share their heart and blood flow data with their doctor thanks to a new partnership with a heart monitoring app.
Belgium based FibriCheck allows users to monitor heart rhythm abnormalities including atrial fibrillation – a common condition that causes an irregular heart rate.
It is the first CE-marked app to be available on Fitbit smartwatches in the EU.
The new partnership allows people to monitor these conditions directly from their Fitbit using sensors and light-based technology that measures the rate of blood flow through their wrist within 60 seconds.
The measurements can then be viewed directly on the device’s screen and shared with medical professionals through FibriCheck’s web interface.
Conditions like atrial fibrillation, a common cause of stroke, are often hard to diagnose due to irregularities in the heart’s electrical impulses.
Common tests rely on these irregularities occurring during the test, but wearable technologies offer the chance to continuously monitor and record heart rhythms, leading to a faster diagnosis.
Nicola Maxwell, director of health solutions and services of EMEA for Fitbit, said: “For more than a decade, Fitbit has helped millions of consumers around the world get healthier by providing them with a holistic picture of their health and wellness.
“Our partnership with FibriCheck expands on this vision by offering an accessible way for people to detect irregular heart rhythms using their Fitbit smartwatch, helping them to potentially identify and monitor heart conditions like atrial fibrillation.”
The FibriCheck smartphone app has been available for users to measure their heart rhythm through the camera on their smartphones since 2016.
In clinical trials the app was “highly accurate” in correctly identifying atrial fibrillation when compared to an ECG, FibriCheck said.
Lars Grieten, chief executive of FibriCheck, added: “FibriCheck is an easy-to-use, first step for people who have concerns about their heart health or who have been advised to monitor their heart rhythm consistently by a medical professional.
“By partnering with Fitbit, we are bringing our technology to millions of consumers’ wrists regardless of mobile device platform, and it provides an accessible option for consumers to better understand their heart health and then easily share those insights with a medical professional who can support their care.”
The potential for wearables to monitor conditions at home has received mixed reviews in recent years, with some saying the devices have the potential to ease pressure on already stretched NHS services and others arguing they encourage a culture of “worried well”, which adds strain to GP surgeries.
A report from the Social Market Foundation in May called on the NHS to prescribe fitness trackers to those who would be unable to purchase the devices themselves.
The report found there were “huge opportunities” to keep patients out of the NHS using digital technologies, but that access to technology needed to be equal and not limited by a person’s ability to pay.
The NHS is currently piloting schemes that allow Clinical Commissioning Groups to offer fitness trackers to some individuals.
In 2017, NHS England (NHSE), Public Health England and Diabetes UK launched a diabetes and obesity prevention pilot project for 5,000 people offering wearables, apps and other gadgets to manage their condition, which feeds into its Diabetes Prevention Programme.