How do patients and their physicians handle data from fitness trackers like Fitbits?

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 follow-up evaluations, was able to present data from it to her physicians. Improved sleep with diminished restlessness was noted after starting the clonidine. The impact on her heart rate variability over time was able to be visualized. The authors noted that 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 that further case reports and studies involving the use of this wearable technology will continue to be published, in a variety of medical fields.