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New app partnership to allow Fitbit users to monitor heart irregularities

A new partnership between Fitbit and health app FibriCheck will allow Fitbit users to measure their heart rhythm to detect irregularities via their smartwatch.

App makers say a reading can be completed in one minute and gives ‘instant, colour-coded feedback’ – green indicating no irregularities have been detected, and red, advising users to seek medical advice.

However, GPs have warned this could increase patient anxiety and workload for the NHS. 

Professor Azeem Majeed, head of primary care at Imperial College London, said: ‘The National Screening Committee has stated there is currently insufficient evidence to support screening for atrial fibrillation.

He added: ‘Another point to note is that Fitbit users tend to be young and will therefore have a very low prevalence of atrial fibrillation and other cardiac arrhythmias. This means that a lot of the ‘positive’ results on the Fitbit will be false-positive results and the patient won’t have any significant problem with their cardiac rhythm.

‘This will lead to increased anxiety for patients and also extra work for the NHS when they consult their doctors. Many patients may be referred for an ECG, which will generate additional work and costs for the NHS.’

Honorary clinical research fellow at the University of Edinburgh Dr Dermot Ryan said: ‘It is irresponsible of app makers to capture new data unless and until the medical workforce is prepared for it, with an app that has been properly trialled with clear evidence of benefit.’

The app can be purchased for a subscription of £3.99 per month and works by using light-based sensors measuring the rate of blood flow on the user’s wrist.

FibriCheck chief executive Lars Grieten said: ‘By partnering with Fitbit, we are bringing our technology to millions of consumers’ wrists regardless of mobile device platform, and it provides an accessible option for consumers to better understand their heart health and then easily share those insights with a medical professional who can support their care.’

It comes as NHS officials recently announced a partnership with Amazon, to allow patients access to health information through Amazon Alexa.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also pledged £250m to boost artificial intelligence and genomic testing in the NHS.

Yet, a recent Pulse investigation highlighted how artificial intelligence is changing the GP-patient relationship.