Fitbit Activity Trackers Being Used For Clinical Trials

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Fitbit's activity, fitness and sleep trackers are being adopted for use in a large number of clinical trials around the world. Fitbit and Fitabase formed a collaboration to combine resources with a joint study on "minimally invasive spin injuries for degenerative disease and deformity." This study makes use of Fitbit's activity tracking technology to monitor patient's physical activity and use the data to help predict recovery rates. Fitabase has stated that it has collected over two billion minutes of physical data over the last four years on behalf of research data but their Chief Executive Officer, Aaron Coleman, explains that collecting participants' sleep, activity and heart rate data "significant periods of time has been logistically difficult to collect and costly to measure." This is exactly where Fitbit technology steps in: although the devices are designed for the consumer market, they are worn 24/7 and can capture data in real-time. Access to such a large amount of data means that Fitabase has been able to design new innovative studies, which ultimately should be for the benefit of everybody.

The use of Fitbit activity tracker technology and devices is believed to be improving recruitment and retention of clinical study staff, in a similar way that Apple's ResearchKit has helped medical research. Fitbit technology is being used with a number of research facilities around the world including Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Given that Fitbit is the market leading activity tracker company – with almost 37 million devices sold since 2014, which is considerably more than rival companies – it is perhaps not surprising that the company's products are being selected for commercial and medical studies. Over the years, Fitbit has not been without controversy with competitor Jawbone filing a lawsuit against Fitbit in May 2015 claiming that Fitbit stole their ideas.

The accuracy of Fitbit's hardware and software has also been investigated and questioned, with the the Berkeley Science Review magazine collating a number of reports into the accuracy of the Fitbit trackers. Accuracy depends on the model being used, the activity being performed and where the device is being worn or carried. As Fitbit develop their products, we might expect accuracy to gradually be improved and if the devices are being used for clinical trials, we might expect a greater emphasis on ensuring the data collected is accurate and therefore relevant.

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