Sep 12 2018

Cedars-Sinai Uses Fitbits to Better Monitor Cancer Patients and Improve Care

The wearables can offer an objective window into patient activity, which can translate to more accurate care.

While wearables may have gotten their start in the consumer market, there’s no doubt that they are making waves in the larger clinical healthcare space.

One of the most recent examples of this is a study by Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which has successfully used Fitbit wearable devices to monitor the activity and quality of life of advanced cancer patients.

The study, which was published in npj Digital Medicine in July, notes that clinicians decided to tap the technology to monitor patient activity because, while an accurate assessment of activity level is necessary to treatment for patients with advanced cancer, it’s often difficult for doctors and care teams to ascertain, since these patients spend most of their time outside the clinic.

“Recent technological advances in wearable activity monitors have made it possible to collect real-time, objective patient activity data in a non-obtrusive manner,” the study authors note. “Wearable activity monitors measure the duration, intensity, and frequency of physical activity and have previously been used in clinical settings to motivate exercise and behavior.”

Referring specifically to Fitbit Charge, the authors point out that these trackers are relatively affordable for care teams and patients alike, making them cost-effective tools to track everything from sleep to heart rate.

While the study notes that the findings need to be validated by further studies — and indeed, Cedars-Sinai is conducting at least one additional study — it concludes that wearables can be used successfully to “predict clinical and patient-reported outcomes,” for advanced cancer patients.

“We got a ballpark idea of what a cancer patient’s life is like outside of the clinic,” Dr. Andrew Hendifar, medical director for pancreatic cancer at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute and the principal investigator of the study told Health Data Management. “We found that there was a very strong association between the physician’s score and the number of steps per day the patient was doing. The more that they walked, the less issues they had in a number of measures.”

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Wearables Move Toward Personalized Medicine

Fitness trackers are being used in a variety of ways by clinicians and researchers to better track patient biometric data that can help to inform the management of various diseases and disorders.

Fitbit CEO James Park recently told Fortune that he felt connected devices had an “important part to play in the healthcare system” at large, and that the company would be looking toward the clinical space, taking the lessons it learned from the consumer aspects of its business and creating “overall solutions for helping people manage different health conditions.”

Fitbit has already made waves in the clinical space, recently teaming with Google to help securely connect wearable data with electronic medical record data and disseminate the information across the healthcare system.

Going forward, data collected from wearables has the potential to enable a wider world of personalized and precision medicine, as well — something Hendifar of Cedars-Sinai told Health Data Management he is looking forward to.

“Our hope is that findings from future studies with wearable activity monitors could lead to development of individualized treatment and exercise plans that may result in increased treatment tolerability and improved survival outcomes for patients,” said Hendifar.

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