The tech giant has been focusing on consumer health & says the Fitbit may soon detect atrial fibrillation
It’s no secret that Google has been focusing on consumer health, and the tech behemoth is now seeking FDA approval to clear Fitbit for passive heart rhythm monitoring. Google also plans to launch a search engine feature that will display available appointments for wellness providers, and it is collaborating with CVS Minute Clinic.
Google bought the wearable device brand for $2.1 billion in 2019 in order to compete with Apple, which is also laser-focused in the wearable health tech game.
The numbers are clear — according to EMarketer, roughly 44 percent of consumers reported using technology such as wearables to track at least one metric in 2019. As a result of the pandemic and people becoming more health-conscious, this percentage rose to 54% by 2020.
Most recentl, Google said it has asked the FDA for permission to use Fitbit photoplethysmography sensors to detect atrial fibrillation.
Although the Fitbit wearable already has FDA approval to use ECG to monitor heart rhythm, the photoplethysmography sensors would provide more long-term monitoring, says Google. The new Fitbit feature will notify users if they exhibit symptoms of atrial fibrillation (AFib), which increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related conditions.
It is estimated that 12.1 million people in the US will have AFib in 2030.
Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google’s chief health officer, said during a call where the tech company announced its health-related endeavors, “The pandemic has really strengthened our resolve as a company that we could and should apply our technologies to see that we can be helpful to everyone, everywhere, as they live their lives and encounter their health journey. It also really strengthened our resolve about how important it is to think about meeting people where they are on the products that they’re already using every day.”
Google presented the findings of its study, which included 450,000 Fitbit users, at the American Heart Association meeting last year. Google demonstrated that its algorithm could detect undiagnosed AFib 98 percent of the time.
One issue that the study encountered was that not all participants chose to follow up after receiving a notification.
A video that explains Fitbit’s heart study can be found here.
Google reorganized its health division last summer, relocating 20% of its employees to the Search and Fitbit teams. The tech giant desired to focus on clinical work and suggested that it would be heavily investing in health and that it would be a company-wide mission.
Google’s latest FDA submission coincides with the American College of Sports Medicine’s recent prediction that wearable technology would be the top fitness trend in 2022.
Courtney Rehfeldt has worked in the broadcasting media industry since 2007 and has freelanced since 2012. Her work has been featured in Age of Awareness, Times Beacon Record, The New York Times, and she has an upcoming piece in Slate. She studied yoga & meditation under Beryl Bender Birch at The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. She enjoys hiking, being outdoors, and is an avid reader. Courtney has a BA in Media & Communications studies.