Fitbits, Jawbones and other fitness trackers are useful because they help consumers keep track of how active they've been each day, how well they've been sleeping and how many calories they burn with each workout. Clinical researchers and pharmaceutical companies have also put these devices to work in an effort to develop medical product opportunities.
In 2015, Anna Edney and Caroline Chen of Bloomberg reported that pharmaceutical companies began pairing subjects in clinical trials with Fitbit tracking devices to "amass precise information and gather round-the-clock data in hopes of streamlining trials and better understanding whether a drug is working." The Department of Veterans Affairs has used wearable tracking devices as part of the treatment plan for patients recovering from back surgery. As these devices track movement, and patients suffering from back pain have difficulty moving, researchers are using data from these devices to determine the proper amount of treatment.
"Researchers are using data from these devices to determine the proper amount of treatment."
Over the last few months, Mobi Health News has identified as many as 38 clinical trials that are currently using Fitbit activity trackers. These trackers have been used for studies on everything from obesity to cystic fibrosis, COPD and diabetes. Jonah Comstock pointed out that in some of these trials, the Fitbits themselves are even being tested as the intervention in studies, opposed to the control group.
A wearable revolution
Kara Dennis, the Director of Mobile Health at Medidata Solutions, Inc., told Bloomberg that the use of wearables in clinical trials has the makings of "a revolution." These devices are becoming lighter, more user-friendly, more fashionable and more accurate, tracking more comprehensive data with every new version. Tech companies continue to develop less intrusive devices that are easier to wear and easier to use, so consumers have no problem strapping them on every day and tracking their information.
One company in Massachusetts, MC10, Inc., has even developed what they call the BioStamp. BioStamp is described as "an intelligent Band-Aid." It's a light, flexible device that can stick to skin like a patch, tracking a wide range of specialized data such as UV exposure, perspiration, biochemistry and blood pressure. MC10 is partnering with UCB, a Belgian pharmaceutical company, to track data as part of a study on severe neurological disorders.
As consumer products, wearable devices are useful tools for tracking health data and improving one's overall health. As breakthrough medical products, they're invaluable assets to clinical trials, helping researchers track crucial data on subjects to learn more about ailments and potential treatments.