Source: Fitbit

How Wearables Can Help Improve Cardiovascular Health

In Northern Ireland, wearable devices are being used to help remotely deliver an innovative programme for cardiovascular patients during the pandemic. The ‘Our Hearts Our Minds’ programme was set up in 2019 by Dr Susan Connolly, Consultant Cardiologist at the Western Health and Social Care Trust, as part of the Department of Health's Transformation agenda. The 12-week programme is delivered by a skilled multidisciplinary team and aims to support cardiovascular patients in making healthier lifestyle choices, ensure they’re on appropriate medication for their blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as promoting psychological well-being.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Connolly rapidly transitioned the fully face-to-face programme to a virtual platform which includes video assessments, use of a wearable device and virtual group education sessions. Patients in the programme are invited to use a Fitbit smartwatch and share data with their clinical team. The data include physical activity such as steps and active minutes, which are also viewable via a custom dashboard. The dashboard allows the care team to provide tailored physical activity advice and share motivational messages through the Fitbit app. Patients are also able to use the app to log their weight, body mass index (BMI), and food intake to share with the clinical team.

Results following the transition to a virtual platform have been recorded and compared to the in-person programme and a poster was presented at the 2021 European Society of Cardiology Annual Meeting. Records showed that:

  • mean reduction in waist circumferences was nearly 3x greater
  • overall reduction in weight was more than 2x increased
  • approximately two thirds more patients achieved their target blood pressure (<140/90mm Hg)


As a result of Dr Connolly’s work in successfully transitioning the programme to a fully remote offering, she received a Heart Hero Award by the British Heart Foundation on World Heart Day on September 29.

Dr Connolly comments, “Over 600 patients have now benefitted from the virtual programme, and early analysis suggests that it achieves similar and even better clinical and patient outcomes compared to an in-person programme, across both lifestyle and medical risk factors, including increases in physical activity based on daily step count and active minutes.  Patient feedback on the programme has been exceptionally positive. Our move to a virtual platform has meant we could continue to deliver high quality preventive care but in a way that kept patients and staff safe. It has also opened our eyes to the value of remote monitoring for healthcare professionals and for patients, in terms of both the convenience and motivation it provides.”

“Through the work we’ve been doing with this programme, we are continuing to develop ways to better understand patients’ behaviours enabling us to tailor our intervention for the individual patient”.

“Working with clinical partners to help to improve outcomes for people with cardiometabolic diseases, particularly hypertension and diabetes is a key focus for us,” says Nicola Maxwell, Head of Fitbit Health Solutions in EMEA. 

“Within this programme we are able to give people a better view of their activity, sleep and other health metrics which can help empower them in managing their day to day wellbeing. We are also working to harness innovative technologies that can lead to better condition management and potentially decrease the burden on the healthcare system,” says Nicola Maxwell. 

Fitbit pioneered heart rate tracking on the wrist with PurePulse technology and it continues to develop innovative tools that help people better understand and manage their heart health. This includes experiences that inspire and empower users to improve their health behaviours (activity, nutrition, sleep, mindfulness) that impact heart health, as leveraged in the Our Hearts Our Minds program.  It also includes new sensing innovations, like its electrocardiogram (ECG) app, which received regulatory clearance from the U.S. FDA and the CE marking in the EEA in September 2020, measures electrical activity of the heart. It is designed for users who want to assess their heart rhythm for atrial fibrillation (AFib) in the moment and review the reading later with their doctor. AFib is a common irregular heart rhythm and can increase the risk of serious complications like stroke. It affects around 1.6 million people in the UK and increases the risk of stroke by five times compared to the general population.