Having patients use a Fitbit during hospitalization can lower patient readmissions after surgery for metastatic peritoneal cancer, according to a new Annals of Behavioral Medicine report.
In a study of 71 patients diagnosed with appendiceal cancer, researchers calculated steps recorded by a Fitbit over the entire inpatient recovery period. Those with higher steps per day had lower 30-day and 60-day readmissions.
In this study, patients were given Fitbits when they transferred from the ICU after surgery and wore them throughout their inpatient stay. Researchers used data in patients’ EHRs to track rehospitalizations.
The researchers said postoperative ambulation can lead to timely recovery, but it’s rarely monitored or examined as part of a predictor of clinical outcomes. They said their study shows the potential of remotely monitoring patient ambulation using Fitbit devices. For instance, low daily step count could mean providers need to monitor and intervene with patients before discharge.
Researchers found that higher Fitbit steps predicted a lower risk of patient readmissions regardless of demographics and medical covariates. “After adjustment for demographic and medical covariates, taking 100 additional steps per inpatient recovery day was associated with 17% lower risk of 30-day readmission and 18% lower risk of 60-day readmission,” according to the study.
The researchers said the results are consistent with research in general medicine and cardiac patients. The new study did not research post-discharge steps, which could be the next area to examine. Those steps post-discharge could “be even more critical than inpatient steps in predicting readmission risk,” according to the study.
One hospital is already using Fitbits to help patients recover from surgery. Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles recently used the devices to encourage walking among patients after hip and knee replacement surgeries.
Hospitals and providers have increasingly looked at how to integrate technology like Fitbit and Apple Watch into their patients’ care. The FDA recently released a plan to clarify regulations concerning software being used as medical devices. The agency said it doesn't plan to regulate lifestyle mobile applications like Fitbits.
Meanwhile, health IT experts expect technology giant Apple will become a bigger player in healthcare in 2018. Brian Eastwood, analyst at Chilmark Research, recently told Healthcare Dive that Apple will continue moving into healthcare and suggested the company may move into the patients as consumers space. “They're taking their sweet time, but they have that luxury that other digital health startups don't have,” Eastwood said.