NIH Integrates Fitbit Data into “All of Us” Research Program

Participants in the NIH All of Us research program can now volunteer their FitBit data to better inform the national population health research initiative.

Digital health technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as wearable fitness trackers, can add critical insight into everyday activities and physical fitness levels.

Participants in All of Us can already contribute their electronic health record data and biosamples in addition to answering surveys online.

Adding everyday information such as heart rate and step count can supplement researchers’ understanding of habits and routines that may contribute to health outcomes.

“Collecting real-world, real-time data through digital technologies will become a fundamental part of the program,” said Eric Dishman, director of the All of Us Research Program.

“This information, in combination with many other data types, will give us an unprecedented ability to better understand the impact of lifestyle and environment on health outcomes and, ultimately, develop better strategies for keeping people healthy in a very precise, individualized way.”

The data will be linked to other contributed datasets, and securely protected in the same manner, Dishman said in an accompanying video.

“This kind of digital health technology data is really important to the future of our program,” he reiterated. “When I go to the doctor, I’m nervous, so it’s not surprising that my blood pressure is high. But what’s my blood pressure like the rest of the time?”

“Collecting that in-the-wild data is a fundamental part of the program because it’s going to help us truly understand the impact of lifestyle and environment on health outcomes and hopefully develop better strategies for keeping people healthy in the first place in a very precise, individualized way.”

The program will be launching additional digital health partnerships with Fitbit and other companies in the future, he continued.

“There will be other device manufacturers that we’ll partner with, and other opportunities to share data,” he said. “More to come, but it’s great to celebrate that the All of Us research program is moving into the era of the digital health technologies like wearables, and I’m pretty excited to see how that goes.”

All of Us has big plans for the Fitbit data and other diverse datasets heading into 2019, Dishman said in an earlier episode of his video blog, The Dish.

“I think of [2019] as the year of getting and giving health information. We’ll get some new data types, we’ll give information back to participants, and we’ll give out the first curated data set to the research community,” he said.

“We’re going to pilot a lot of new data types in 2019, and the first of which is, and I’ve talked a bit about it here already, genotyping and whole genome sequencing data. So, get those data types going, learn the logistics about how to do that—these are huge files—and carry that promise all the way through.”

The initiative is also going to pilot the addition of laboratory test results, and will develop tools for participants to learn more about their personal health information.

“We’ll be using a sort of basic electronic health record visualization tool so people can start to make sense, if we have your EHR data, of what exactly this might mean for you,” said Dishman.

“And then we’re just going to do a much better job of getting going with educational materials about what’s happening in precision medicine and lectures and other kinds of things that many participants out there have expressed interest in.”

“I’m looking forward to a challenging 2019, but I think we’re going to look back and say, ‘Wow, this really was the year of giving and getting health information out there.’ And then, we’ll see what’s next in 2020!”

Originally published in Heath IT Analytics by Jennifer Bresnick on January 18, 2019