FitBit data continues to appear in medical publications, as demonstrated by a recent case report in the journal PM&R. The authors presented the case of a 43-year-old woman with a diagnosis of post-concussive syndrome. Her symptoms were limiting her ability to function at work, despite a course of physical and cognitive therapy. Restlessness at night, headaches, impaired concentration, along with labile blood pressure, tachycardia, and sweating episodes were noted.
After a workup for other causes, a diagnosis of dysautonomia was made and she was placed on Clonidine, twice a day. She was also using a FitBit Charge HR wearable device, and on followup evaluations was able to present data from it to her physicians. Improved sleep with diminished restlessness was noted after starting the Clonidine, and the impact on her heart rate variability over time was able to be visualized. The authors noted the ability to have a dynamic rather than static assessment of the patient was empowering for both the patient and her clinicians.
Dysautonomia is a broad term used to describe abnormal autonomic system responses. Symptoms may include changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature regulation. A wide variety of etiologies for this condition exist, including brain injury.
FitBit data is obviously not a standardized, regulated method of medical monitoring. Yet, given the marked prevalence of these devices amongst the general population, it’s not surprising that such data may be presented to physicians. In this case, and in the case of a previous report in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, such data was apparently helpful. I anticipate further case reports and studies involving the use of this wearable technology will continue to be published, in a variety of medical fields.
Physicians should expect to be asked at some point by their patients about the relevance of the massive amounts of data being generated by these wearables. How that discussion goes probably depends on what the clinicians’ knowledge of these activity monitors is, both on their potential strengths and limitations.