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Google seeks FDA approval for Fitbits passive heart rate monitoring tech

Following a large-scale virtual health study, Google has submitted Fitbit’s passive heart rate monitoring algorithm for review by the US Food and Drug Administration. Approval would allow Google to market the Fitbit as a medical device in the States.

The study, which went live in May 2020, was open to all US Fitbit users over the age of 22, and it was designed to test how accurately the device could detect atrial fibrillation, or irregular heart rhythm. The system uses photoplethysmography to passively track the blood flow in a user’s wrist and determine if there are any concerning irregularities. Google said its algorithm correctly identified undiagnosed AFib 98 percent of the time in this study, and the company presented its results to the American Heart Association at its most recent meeting.

Fitbit’s Sense Smartwatch was approved by the FDA in 2020 for its ability to assess AFib using built-in electrocardiogram technology. This method requires active input from the user, while the PPG system heading to the FDA today runs in the background.

In addition to the Fitbit FDA news, Google is rolling out a few other healthcare-related tools. Google Search in the US will soon show available appointment slots with local doctors and clinics when looking for care, with an emphasis on the CVS MinuteClinic.

“While we’re still in the early stages of rolling this feature out, we’re working with partners, including MinuteClinic at CVS and other scheduling solution providers,” Google chief health officer Dr. Karen DeSalvo said. “We hope to expand features, functionality and our network of partners so we can make it easier for people to get the care they need.”

Google is also rolling out “health source information panels” and “health content shelves” on YouTube videos in Japan, Brazil and India this week, in an effort to highlight credible information from legitimate sources.

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