Google asked the FDA to clean up Fitbit for passive heart rate screening

Google has sent data for a new Fitbit model to look more closely at the hearts of users to the Food and Drug Administration, the company announced today.

Fitbit can check the heart rate at any time; users must decide to take a read. The new model will run later and alert people if they are showing signs of a disease called atrial fibrillation. It will bring Fitbit’s EKG screen closer to the one on the Apple Watch, which will check the user’s heart from time to time and let them know if it has any errors.

Fitbit launched a study in 2020 to test its passive heart rate technology. Nearly half a million Fitbit users participated in the study, and it was estimated that about 1 percent of participants (less than 5,000 people) did not have a heart attack, according to with data presented at the 2021 American Heart Association conference. Those people were asked to schedule a telehealth consultation so they could get an EKG patch, and about 1,000 did so. Of that group, about a third received the confirmation – giving the technology a good predictive value for atrial fibrillation of 98 percent. (For comparison, the Apple Watch atrial fibrillation alert had a better prognosis value of 84 percent in a similar-sized study.)

“These results are promising and we think we will have a real impact on first detecting and maintaining this critical condition,” Tony Faranesh, a research scientist at Fitbit, said in a briefing. short.

Atrial fibrillation is associated with an increased risk of stroke, and it is hoped that this type of early detection will help prevent stroke. But it’s not clear if monitoring atrial fibrillation via a smartwatch will actually keep strokes from working – most of the research is about the accuracy of the devices, not if the use them to take care of people’s health in the long run.

Faranesh said there is no definite time for when the new feature will be available on Fitbit devices.

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