Is Fitbit planning an entry into the at-home health testing space?

Companies such as Everlywell, LetsGetchecked and MyLabBox have aimed at making lab tests faster and cheaper than official laboratories. Pair the testing with telemedicine and you have a pretty decent and affordable health platform offering.

It appears that Fitbit might be exploring the world of Assays and how it can be used to augment current Fitbit offerings on its premium digital platform.

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The company famous for counting steps is now exploring approaches to build a microfluidic metering and delivery system. 

According to Fitbit’s research, it is evaluating a cartridge-driven assay system that can help with performing point-of-care, analysis, including multiplexed analysis, of a biological fluid analyte, such as blood. 

A series of new Fitbit patents over the past few weeks and months point to this possibility.Fitbit At-Home testing assays

The invention includes a cartridge for collecting the biological fluid analyte. The cartridge is configured to be inserted into an assay reader, in which one or more assay reactions may be performed. The assay reader is designed to read and report the results of one or more assay reactions.

Point-of-care (POC) testing refers to performing medical diagnostic tests at the time and place (“point of care”) that the patient is being treated. 

Point-of-care testing is advantageous over traditional diagnostic testing where patient samples are sent out to a laboratory for further analysis, because the results of traditional diagnostic tests may not be available for hours, if not days or weeks, making it difficult for a caregiver to assess the proper course of treatment in the interim. 

In-home testing assay kits have several challenges in that they require the users to strictly follow a sequence of steps in order to correctly complete the sample collection and testing.

Fitbit’s new approach looks at a POC system that precisely controls the amount of analyte that is collected, minimizes the analyte collection time to avoid undesirable side reactions (e.g., blood clotting); and controls the dispensing time during which the target analyte undergoes chemical reactions with the assay chemicals to provide a more accurate assay result.

Fitbit at-home testing assay cartridge
Fitbit Assay Cartridge for at-home blood testing

In terms of the different testing that might be made available using this new POC platform, Fitbit researchers have identified the following key tests with the caveat that these tests do not require to be performed by a trained heath care professional

1.For example, in one embodiment, the assay systems of the invention are useful for providing diabetic patients with point-of-care information regarding their blood composition, including glucose level, hemoglobin A1C with eAG, C-peptide levels, creatinine levels, and the like. By way of example, glucose levels may be measured by reaction with dinitrosalicylic acid, which results in a color change that is proportional to the amount of glucose present. Alternatively, glucose levels in a target analyte may be analyzed by monitoring the degree of change in yellow color characteristic of ferricyanide.

2.The presence of creatinine can be detected by reacting creatinine with a picrate, which results in a colored complex.

3. The assay systems may be used to evaluate the immune reactivity of blood platelets using colorimetric assay chemistry based on the reduction of tetrazolium salts.

4. In other embodiments, when the target analyte is urine, the assay stack may comprise assay components for measuring glucose, detecting uric acid, detecting hematuria, or detecting metabolites of illicit drugs, using assay chemistries as known in the art.

The majority of these patents discuss detailed approaches to the fabrication of the assay cartridges. As with any patent, it is hard to say if it will become a product offering any time soon. Given the details and the frequency of assay related patents from Fitbit, it appears that the company may actually be pursuing this idea.

According to latest news reports, Google has organized its consumer-focussed health initiatives completely into Fitbit.

With access to new CAPEX and world-class talent of software engineers from Google, Fitbit definitely has a shot to expand into the area of new at-home tests and more importantly integrate the readings from these tests into its Fitbit premium platform offering in the future.

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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