Fitbit, NIH launch digital health tech initiative supporting precision medicine study

This is the first digital health technology initiative for the All of Us program, which launched in May 2018 .

Fitbit and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are announcing a digital health research initiative that aims to uncover how certain health indicators relate to health outcomes. Tied to Fitbit's Bring-Your-Own-Device project and the All of Us research program, the joint initiative will invite current Fitbit users to sync their accounts and data to help researchers build out a massive data set for what's being called one of the world's largest precision medicine studies. 

Fitbit users will share health indicators such as physical activity, heart rate, and sleep patterns, along with details on their weight, water intake and meals. Researchers will then have access to the data to conduct a wide range of studies. According to Eric Dishman, director of the All of Us Research Program, digital technologies like Fitbit are key to enabling researchers to collect real-world, real-time data.

"Collecting real-world, real-time data through digital technologies will become a fundamental part of the program," said Dishman. "This information in combination with many other data types will give us an unprecedented ability to better understand the impact of lifestyle and environment on health outcomes and, ultimately, develop better strategies for keeping people healthy in a very precise, individualized way."

This is the first digital health technology initiative for the All of Us program, which launched in May 2018 under the direction of Scripps Research, and Fitbit is the first wearable device maker to participate. Another All of Us research initiative conducted by Scripps Research Translational Institute using Fitbit devices will launch later this year, with upwards of 10,000 Fitbit devices to be provided to "a random and diverse set of participants."

Fitbit is credited as one of the most commonly used fitness trackers in biomedical research. To date, more than 6,752 published studies have used a Fitbit device, according to a recent analysis. Fitbit's main smartwatch rival Apple is also making moves into the healthcare space, which IDC expects will drive the next wave of growth in the smartwatch market.

The Apple Watch Series 4 now offers a standard feature that detects irregular heart rhythms. Meanwhile, Fitbit is working towards clinical validation and regulatory approval of its software for use in detecting health conditions such as sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation. Both device makers are pitching their products for use in HR enterprise wellness programs and throughout hospitals and healthcare.