Fitbit asks FDA to clear passive heart rate monitoring

(Pocket Ribbon) – Fitbit, owned by Google, has submitted data to the US Food and Drug Administration to review a new passive heart rate monitoring feature for its wearable devices.

Currently, Fitbit can only periodically check for an irregular heart rhythm; Fitbit users should decide to check it out. However, Fitbit’s new feature can run in the background and notify people if they’re showing symptoms of atrial fibrillation. This would help Fitbit compete better with the Apple Watch’s EKG feature, which also monitors heart rhythms and alerts users to irregularities.

In 2020, Fitbit began testing passive heart rhythm technology with nearly half a million Fitbit users participating in a survey. According to data sent to the American Heart Association in 2021, Fitbit noted that about 5,000 of those participants had irregular heart rhythms. Of that group, 1,000 set up a telehealth consultation for an EKG patch. (A third later had a confirmed diagnosis.)

The results are promising, but it’s still unclear when Fitbit will actually offer a passive heart rate monitoring feature on its devices. The fact that the FDA is reviewing it is a good sign, but there are many unknowns.

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February 1, 2022

Fitbit’s Sense Smartwatch was FDA-approved in 2020 for its ability to assess AFib using built-in electrocardiogram technology, but again, that method requires active input from the user.

Written by Maggie Tillman.

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