Wearable device maker Fitbit and pharmaceutical giants Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer have signed a multiyear partnership to speed up the detection and diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (AFib) to reduce the risk of life-threatening events such as stroke.
The alliance plan to collaborate on the development of educational content and guidance to support people at increased risk for AFib. Upon submission and FDA clearance of the AFib detection software on Fitbit devices, the parties will aim to provide users with appropriate information to help encourage and inform discussions with their physicians.
“We’re in a new era of healthcare, where we’re not only focused on developing treatments but also looking at the potential of technology and data to help patients learn more about their health,” said Angela Hwang, Group President, Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group. “We are excited about wearables and how our work with BMS and Fitbit may potentially help patients and physicians detect and understand heart rhythm irregularities.”
Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of irregular heartbeat and is a significant risk factor for stroke. During AFib, the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly – out of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. Approximately eight million people in the United States are projected to be affected by AFib in 2019. As the U.S. population ages, this number is expected to rise, as adults aged 65 and older are at an increased risk of developing the condition. Because AFib can be asymptomatic, it can often go undetected, and some studies suggest that more than 25 percent of people who have the condition find out after they have a stroke, says a press release.
Wearable technology has continued to become more integrated in the healthcare landscape5 as people have recognized the value that 24/7 health tracking can have for them. Fitbit’s user-generated data, in combination with its analytics talent, gives the company an advantage when it comes to determining how cost-effective certain health-related behavioral changes are.
“At Fitbit, we’re focused on making health more accessible and, through our efforts with the BMS-Pfizer Alliance, we have the potential to support earlier detection of atrial fibrillation, a potentially asymptomatic condition that affects millions of Americans,” said James Park, Co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “With our continuous, 24/7 on-wrist health tracking capabilities, and our experience delivering personalized, engaging software and services, we believe we can develop content to help bridge the gaps that exist in atrial fibrillation detection, encouraging people to visit their doctor for a prompt diagnosis and potentially reduce their risk of stroke.”