Scripps Research Institute launches Fitbit pilot to feed data into NIH precision medicine initiative

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The Scripps Research Institute will use Fitbits to capture health data from participants in the All of Us campaign. (Fitbit)

A subset of patients enrolled in the National Institute of Health’s All of Us research initiative will submit data using a Fitbit as part of a pilot study to determine how wearables can be used for broader integration into the precision medicine research initiative.

The Scripps Research Institute, which was selected by NIH to enroll patients in the All of Us Research Program, will provide Fitbit devices—the Fitbit Charge 2 or the Fitbit Alta HR—to 10,000 participants to capture data on physical activity, heart rate and sleep.  

Researchers at Scripps will conduct a one-year study using data generated by the devices to provide recommendations about how wearables can be incorporated throughout the initiative, which has begun the process of recruiting 1 million participants.

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“Most of what researchers know is based on intermittent snapshots of health in an artificial setting or based on personal recall,” Steven Steinhubl, M.D., a cardiologist and the director of digital medicine at Scripps, said in an announcement. “Through this research program, we’ll have access to comprehensive activity, heart rate and sleep data that may help us better understand the relationship between lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes and what that means for patients on an individualized basis.”

The patient-generated data captured by Fitbits will feed NIH’s efforts to uncover individualized treatments based on a patient’s genetic makeup and health data buried in EHRs. The study could also address ongoing questions about the effectiveness of wearables in the clinical setting.

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The announcement marks another step in Fitbit’s concerted effort to enter the healthcare market. In addition to teaming up with insurers like UnitedHealthcare, the wearables manufacturer was selected by the FDA to participate in its coveted digital health precertification pilot program.

The company’s primary competitor, Apple, announced in September that it was teaming up with Stanford to study ways in which the new Apple Watch can detect cardiac abnormalities following reports that it was launching an expanded partnership with Aetna.