Rationale and design of a large population study to validate software for the assessment of atrial fibrillation from data acquired by a consumer tracker or smartwatch: The Fitbit heart study

Am Heart J. 2021 Aug:238:16-26. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2021.04.003. Epub 2021 Apr 15.


Background: Early detection of atrial fibrillation or flutter (AF) may enable prevention of downstream morbidity. Consumer wrist-worn wearable technology is capable of detecting AF by identifying irregular pulse waveforms using photoplethysmography (PPG). The validity of PPG-based software algorithms for AF detection requires prospective assessment.

Methods: The Fitbit Heart Study (NCT04380415) is a single-arm remote clinical trial examining the validity of a novel PPG-based software algorithm for detecting AF. The proprietary Fitbit algorithm examines pulse waveform intervals during analyzable periods in which participants are sufficiently stationary. Fitbit consumers with compatible wrist-worn trackers or smartwatches were invited to participate. Enrollment began May 6, 2020 and as of October 1, 2020, 455,699 participants enrolled. Participants in whom an irregular heart rhythm was detected were invited to attend a telehealth visit and eligible participants were then mailed a one-week single lead electrocardiographic (ECG) patch monitor. The primary study objective is to assess the positive predictive value of an irregular heart rhythm detection for AF during the ECG patch monitor period. Additional objectives will examine the validity of irregular pulse tachograms during subsequent heart rhythm detections, self-reported AF diagnoses and treatments, and relations between irregular heart rhythm detections and AF episode duration and time spent in AF.

Conclusions: The Fitbit Heart Study is a large-scale remote clinical trial comprising a unique software algorithm for detection of AF. The study results will provide critical insights into the use of consumer wearable technology for AF detection, and for characterizing the nature of AF episodes detected using consumer-based PPG technology.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Algorithms*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Confidentiality
  • Electrocardiography, Ambulatory / instrumentation
  • Female
  • Fitness Trackers / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photoplethysmography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Research Design*
  • Software Validation*
  • Telemedicine
  • Wearable Electronic Devices* / adverse effects
  • Young Adult