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Fitbit Shows Promise in Tracking Performance, Predicting Cancer Outcomes


Cedars-Sinai and Johns Hopkins researchers performed the wearables study.

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Fitbit isn’t only for the neighborhood jogger. In a new study, researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University found that a Fitbit device successfully gathered real-time, objective data on patients with cancer, helping clinicians predict outcomes.

Although researchers cautioned against making larger generalizations due to the nature of the participants and the small sample size, they said the study suggested that the kinds of physical activity measured by a Fitbit Charge HR could provide insights into the state of a patient with advanced cancer. It’s possible that the wearable and others like it could prove a valuable healthcare tool, they said.

“Given the rapid growth in the use of consumer-based fitness monitors worldwide, these findings could also have a larger public health impact with regard to prevention, control, and survivorship programs,” the authors wrote. “There is an opportunity to enhance patient engagement and communication between patients and providers, as well as motivate patients to monitor and improve their daily activity.”

>> READ: Fitbit Says Its New Healthcare Apps Could Improve Outcomes, Costs

The study, published last week in Nature’s partner journal Digital Medicine, examined 37 patients with advanced cancer, most of whom had pancreatic cancer. They were each given a Fitbit Charge HR, chosen by the researchers for its popularity and affordability, which patients used for a total of two weeks. Over the course of three clinician visits, care teams analyzed outcomes.

From there, researchers compared associations between Fitbit data such as steps, distance traveled, stairs to patient performance status, clinical outcomes, and patient-reported outcomes.

They found the largest correlations between the average number of daily steps and provider-assessed performance status, with every 1,000 additional steps per day being associated with lower odds of a patient experiencing adverse events and hazard for death. Researchers also noticed significant correlations between activity metrics and patient-reported outcomes.

The investigators set out to gauge wearables’ ability to provide an objective evaluation of patient performance status, according to the article. It’s difficult for clinicians to accomplish that goal because patients live the majority of their lives outside the doctor’s office. With advanced cancer, patients are also apt to experience significant changes as time goes on.

So what’s next? Before anything, researchers said, the scientific community must conduct a larger, randomized, controlled study across various cancer groups to further examine wearable devices’ ability to measure performance status and predict outcomes.

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Original Research: MDs Are Increasingly Recommending Wearables

Fitbit’s Stumble Reflects a Changing Wearables Industry

Mayo Clinic Researchers Find Emojis Could Help Monitor Cancer Patient Outcomes

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