Home Insights Smartwatch FITBIT SENSE: The ECG app is finally live!

FITBIT SENSE: The ECG app is finally live!

Wear an FDA cleared Electrocardiogram with the Fitbit Sense and its dedicated app.

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The Fitbit sense is one of the newest and probably one of the best smartwatches on the market for recording an electrocardiogram anytime or anywhere. In addition, it’s only the third smartwatch in the US to receive clearance by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) app.

We waited a couple of months for the ECG app to be live to check for heart disease, such as signs of atrial fibrillation. The app is finally available, and we love it. Discover why it matters and how to make the most of it.

Why checking your ECG is important?

An ECG provides a lot of information about your heart’s health and should not be taken lightly. It goes far beyond the recording of the record of the heart rate and rhythm. Depending on your medical history, health habits, and medical history, having an ECG is the first step towards preserving your health.

Why and when do you need an ECG?

The first question to answer relates to your health habit. You are interested in smartwatches and wearables, so obviously, you are conscious of your health. That’s great!

When working out or just getting up the stairs, if you experience discomfort, shortness of breath, or irregular heartbeats, using a smartwatch for a preliminary ECG may be a lifesaver. There is no need to rush to the hospitals; use your smartwatch to preliminary analyze your heart.

The electrocardiogram of a smartwatch will never replace a clinical exam performed by experienced professionals. Still, it can provide information that you did not suspect and may ultimately save your life.

An ECG with a watch? Does it really work?

During the last 10 years, technology made tremendous progress. Wearables use optical sensors to monitor heart rhythm. Flashing LEDs that penetrate the skin and analyze the blood flow. The health of your heart goes beyond a simple analysis of the pulse. Nowadays, no need for wires and electrodes to perform an ECG.

In 2018, Tim Cook even tweeted that the Apple Watch saved the life of a Tampa Bay teenager.

In medical settings, medical-grade ECG records the tiny electrical activity signals produced by the heart. It will allow the algorithm to detect abnormalities in the heartbeat pattern. The analysis of this information will allow healthcare professionals to assess the heart’s status and detect abnormal rhythms known as arrhythmia.

Atrial Fibrillation: the silent killer

Atrial Fibrillation relates to an irregular heartbeat. Therefore, detecting Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is critically important. Atrial fibrillation increases heart failure incidence, and stroke is one of the most common chronic diseases.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), three percent of the population suffers from AF. Every year, 454,000 people are hospitalized in the United States due to AF, and this condition is responsible for 158,000 deaths each year.

Wearables and smartwatches will never be the gold standard for electrocardiograms. Instead, look at them as a first step in the right direction to regain control of your health.

These quick ECGs will never replace a 12-leads recording EKG performed in clinical settings. Yet, somehow, detecting early signs of heart diseases is key for preserving your health and planning a visit to the doctor.

Image: Fitbit

Fitbit sense smartwatch ECG is FDA cleared

Detecting only the heart rhythm is often not enough. Following the Apple watch in 2018 and Samsung in early august, Fitbit is the third company to receive FDA clearance for an EKG.

These devices are useful but are low-risk medical devices. The approval process is easier when compared to a top-of-the-line medical ECG recorder.

Do not think somehow that the Fitbit sense ECG is low grade. Withings did not receive FDA clearance. Their ECG feature can not be sold in the US even though they are available in Europe.

According to Fitbit’s tests, the watch and associated app detected 98.7 percent of atrial fibrillation events and 100% normal sinus rhythm. The clinical study included hundreds of thousands of participants. In case of an abnormal event, a physician checked the results to verify the condition’s actual presence.

The Fitbit Sense is a Health powerhouse. The progress made in the last ten years has been incredible. Having an on-wrist ECG is the natural evolution for any reliable smartwatch, and the Fitbit sense is clearly leading the market.

How to conduct an ECG analysis with the Fitbit Sense

The first thing to do is to update the Fitbit app. An ECG app icon will appear on the menu screen. Following the approval of the disclaimers, it is time to check your heart.

To record the heart’s electrical impulses, the watch face’s left and top right corners should be held for the test’s duration. Being in stainless steel, the bezel of the watch will let electricity flow. Don’t worry! It only takes 30 seconds.

A message with the main result of the analysis will then appear on the screen. The results will be available in the Discover section of the app. In addition, Fitbit offers the possibility to download a pdf of the results, which nice graphs of your heart rate. Do not forget to bring the results to your doctor in case something abnormal is detected.

Atrial Fibrillations are not a death sentence. Drugs exist to treat them. As an example, Blood thinners are often the first drug to use.

No need to wait for early signs of heart disease. With the Fitbit Sense ECG app, you now have the possibility to conduct a quick analysis of your heart whenever you do not feel well.

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Jean-Chretien Norreel, PhD, MBA
Dr. Norreel is a Neurobiologist and Geneticist by training with a double degree in Finance and Business Administration. He founded the first Biotechnology company aiming at controlling cell mobility for the treatment of neurologic traumas and brain cancers. He also headed the Digital Health investments of a Global Imaging company. He is the founder and CEO of HASHI Consulting, a consulting boutique helping Digital Health and Pharmaceuticals companies enter the Japanese market.