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US Army to Use Fitbits in RPM Pilot Program at 2 Military Hospitals

The US Army is purchasing more than 500 Fitbit Charge 2 mHealth wearables for a remote patient monitoring program at Washington's Walter Reed National Medical Center and San Antonio's Brooke Army Medical Center.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- The US Army will be using more than 500 Fitbit activity trackers in a remote patient monitoring program at two military hospitals.

The US Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity (USAMRAA) is budgeting almost $81,000 to purchase the mHealth wearables through a sole-source contract. Some 540 Fitbit Charge 2 activity trackers will be used in an RPM pilot program at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and Walter Reed National Medical Center in Washington DC.

The program will be overseen by the Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC) Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC).

According to a federal notice posted on September 4, the wearables will be divided among patients of the two health systems who are involved in a pilot RPM program through each hospital’s newly established virtual medical center (VMEDCEN).

“Tracking routine and exercise based activity and sleep is one of the key components for case managers and members of the VMEDCENs staff to conduct remote home monitoring for patients who are a high risk for hospitalization if their health statuses are not monitoring between clinical encounters,” the notice reads. “These activity trackers will provide data to an authorized, government system, the MHCE (mobile health care environment); to provide these care providers with a centralized dashboard view of their home based activity.”

According to the notice, the wearables to be used in the pilot RPM program “must have a proven ability to provide seamless data transfers from the patient's wrist to the MHCE system with a stable connecting that has already been successfully demonstrated in clinical research pilots.” The Fitbit Charge 2 is the only device that has successfully integrated with the MHCE system, officials said.

The pilot program continues a long list of projects undertaken by the U.S. Armed Forces that use telehealth and mHealth to improve access and car for active and retired military personnel and their families. Among the more newsworthy is the VA’s “Anywhere to Anywhere” telehealth program, launched this year to enable VA-sanctioned healthcare providers to treat veterans through a virtual care platform no matter where each party lives.

Fitbit has long sought to carve out a niche in the consumer-facing activity tracker market that meets the clinical needs of healthcare providers. Company officials – noting their device has been used in more than 675 clinical research programs and 10 times as many clinical studies than other wearables – recently unveiled Fitbit Care, a telehealth platform designed to offer coaching and support for healthcare providers, employers and others using mHealth devices in connected health programs.

Ironically, just last month the Pentagon announced a ban on the use of fitness tracking apps or other wearable technology by deployed servicemen and -women, over fears that the devices could be hacked to reveal the user’s location. The ban only affects service members at operational bases and locations, and won’t be enforced if the user disables the wearables geolocation service.

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