Fitbit can now check if you ain’t got rhythmVish Gainon April 12, 2022 at 08:12 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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Fitbit, the Google-owned wearable device company, has received green light from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to roll out a new feature that can detect atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, in users.

AFib is a type of abnormal heartbeat which is cause by extremely fast and irregular beats in the upper chambers of the heart. The condition affects approximately 37.5m people around the world and can often go undetected – significantly increasing the risk of stroke.

Fitbit said in an announcement yesterday (11 April) that the FDA had approved its photoplethysmography (PPG) algorithm to detect AFib in users. It works by monitoring a person’s heartbeat when they are sleeping or sitting still over a long period of time.

“If there’s anything that might be suggestive of AFib, you’ll be notified through our Irregular Heart Rhythm Notifications feature – allowing you to talk with your healthcare provider or seek further assessment to help prevent a significant medical event, such as stroke,” Fitbit wrote.

98pc accurate

Fitbit first started studying its algorithm in 2020, when it remotely tested the AFib detection feature on nearly half a million participants over a period of five months during the pandemic. AFib detection was found to be 98pc accurate after cross-checking with clinical ECG results.

Google then applied for FDA approval for the algorithm last month that would collect heart rate data from users overnight. While any notification from the device is not an official diagnosis, alerts can prompt users to check with medical professionals and potentially prevent strokes.

Now that the feature will “soon be available” in the US, the clearance puts Fitbit in direct competition with all Apple watches since Series 4 which can detect AFib, turning on the heat in the healthcare wearables space.

In October, an Irish-German medtech called OneProject raised $17m for its heart imaging tech Verafeye that can detect AFib. This followed a previous round in June 2020 that saw the Enterprise Ireland-backed start-up raise $11m in Series A.

Other Irish start-ups in the AFib detection space include precious Start-up of the Week Galenband, which was named ‘One to Watch’ at the Enterprise Ireland Big Ideas showcase in 2020, as well as BioInnovate spin-out AuriGen Medical and NUI Galway spin-out Atrian Medical.

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