New York, NY — In an effort to fight atrial fibrillation (AFib), Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb are banding together with, well, a band: Fitbit, the brand behind the mega-popular activity-tracking wristwear that has helped fashion an entire generation of avid sleep-trackers and step-counters. Though these are the detection capabilities that helped make Fitbit bracelets popular and, if not chic, at least socially acceptable, the brand is building the software to equip its elastic wearables with a new capability: detection of AFib. Fitbit and the Pfizer-BMS alliance will fight the pervasive, dangerous heart condition by building tools that help educate patients and—if Fitbit’s new software is approved by the FDA—detect AFib earlier.

"At Fitbit, we’re focused on making health more accessible and, through our efforts with the BMS-Pfizer Alliance, we have the potential to support earlier detection of atrial fibrillation, a potentially asymptomatic condition that affects millions of Americans,” said Fitbit CEO James Park. "We believe we can develop content to help bridge the gaps that exist in atrial fibrillation detection, encouraging people to visit their doctor for a prompt diagnosis and potentially reduce their risk of stroke." Fitbit’s newest watch has a built-in Amazon Alexa. 

Though the technology is groundbreaking, wearers of wearables may lack the knowledge of how to respond to the heart-rhythm data gathered by their Fitbits. But, by partnering with BMS and Pfizer, Fitbit is helping ensure that people will get both the data as well as the education and support that they need. The partnership, of course, goes both ways. As Dr. Joseph Eid, head of medical affairs at BMS, explained, the Fitbit partnership exemplifies the importance of “advancing care by embracing technology as a part of routine clinical practice.”

Why This Matters

According to the CDC, AFib is the most common kind of heart arrhythmia, affecting as many as six million Americans. Approximately 9% of people over 65 have it, and it can cause heart palpitations, shortness of breath and chest pain. What’s more, in many people, AFib is asymptomatic—and if left untreated it can cause a stroke. Life sciences leaders must be exploring “the potential of technology and data to help patients learn more about their health,” said Angela Hwang, group president of Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group. “We’re in a new era of healthcare.”

About the Author:

Ben helps spark innovative healthcare thinking as Associate Director of Innovation. Previously on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, he brings experience in engaging, rigorous storytelling to the healthcare world. Ben’s goals are to move brands to rethink their roles, own their evolving narratives, and maintain vital and vigorous consumer relationships.