Wearables pulse check: 13 updates from Apple, Amazon, Fitbit & more health IT players 

Jackie Drees - Print  | 

The wearables market has made significant strides in healthcare over the past year, with giants such as Apple and Fitbit launching new studies and capabilities and Amazon and Cerner teaming up on a new EHR-integrated health tracking device.

Here are 13 updates on wearable device advancements in healthcare from the past year.

Editor's note: Updates are listed in the order as reported by Becker's Hospital Review:  

1. Google's parent company Alphabet announced in November 2019 that it will acquire Fitbit for approximately $2.1 billion.

2. Alphabet's life sciences subsidiary Verily was granted 510(k) clearance from the FDA on Jan. 17 for a feature enabling irregular pulse detection by its Study Watch wearable device.

3. Best Buy unveiled on Feb. 27 the latest addition to its growing collection of consumer health technology: a smartphone app and accompanying wearable device providing seniors with one-touch access to emergency services.

4. The Scripps Research Translational Institute in March launched an application-based research program to analyze patients' wearable health data to identify signs of coronavirus and other fast-spreading viral illnesses.

5. Fitbit donated 1,000 smartwatches in April for a new study led by Stanford (Calif.) Medicine and Scripps Research to detect viral infections such as COVID-19 through data collected from wearable devices.

6. Chicago-based Northwestern University and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab jointly developed a new wearable patch device in May that monitors COVID-19 patients' coughing and respiratory activity. The wireless device is made from a soft and flexible material similar to a Band-Aid, and it sticks to the patient's skin, just below the base of the throat.

7. The FDA cleared Apple Watch's ECG for remote patient visits during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of its list of expanded use of noninvasive patient monitoring technologies.

8. Apple in June unveiled a new COVID-19 feature for its Apple Watch that helps users wash their hands for the correct length of time.

9. UCLA partnered with Apple Aug. 3 to launch a three-year study analyzing the relationship between patients' mental health symptoms and their sleep, heart rate, activity and daily routines using Apple Watches and iPhones.

10. Fitbit on Aug. 19 released early results from its ongoing study that shows wearable devices may help providers identify people infected with COVID-19 up to one day before symptoms appear.

11. Amazon on Aug. 27 launched its new health tracking device Halo, the retail giant's first move into the wearables market. Halo also integrated into EHR vendor Cerner's solutions, allowing device users to opt in to share their health data directly into their EHR and with care teams that use Cerner.

12. Apple held a virtual product launch Sept. 15 for its new Watch Series 6, which uses infrared LEDs and photodiodes on the back crystal of the watch to measure the light reflected back from blood. The device then has an advanced algorithm built into the Blood Oxygen app designed to measure blood oxygen between 70 percent and 100 percent.

13. Fitbit received FDA 510(k) clearance in September for its electrocardiogram app to assess heart rhythm for atrial fibrillation. The Fitbit ECG app will be available in October on the Fitbit Sense device in the U.S. as well as several other countries.

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