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Analysis

Fitbit Shows Length-of-Stay Benefits in Every 100 Steps After Surgery

By John Commins  
   February 06, 2019

For every 100 steps taken the day after surgery, up to 1,000 steps, Cedars-Sinai researchers found that patients decreased their probability of a prolonged length of stay by nearly 4%.

Post-operative patients who walked more on the day after surgery had shorter hospital stays, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles report.

The researchers gave Fitbit watches to 100 patients and found that every 100 steps taken the day after surgery, up to 1,000 steps, was correlated with a 3.7% reduction in the probability that the patient would have a prolonged length of stay related to the operation.

The study appeared in the February issue of JAMA Network Open.

"We measure everything about our patients—whether it's heart rate, blood pressure, etc.—but nowhere do we measure steps, even though we know steps are so important for a patient's wellbeing," said senior author, Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Education. "Now we have the ability to do so."

Timothy Daskivich, MD, director of Health Services Research for the Cedars-Sinai Department of Surgery, said the study provides a strong rationale for using devices such as Fitbits in the postoperative clinical setting.

He said it gives healthcare workers a precise way to monitor patient step counts and quickly know if a patient is recovering well. Daskivich hopes to see if Fitbits can increase step counts and reduce length of stay in a randomized controlled trial at Cedars-Sinai.

"We’re operationalizing this pop culture tech device for a real clinical purpose in the hospital, and using rigorous science to guide the process. We think it's exciting and patients are responding to it,” says Daskivich.

To encourage walks, the patients were given an app offering tours of Cedars-Sinai's art collection, with shorter and longer walks that include the exact step count for each tour.

In an accompanying invited commentary, Thomas M. Krummel, MD, said research like the Cedars-Sinai report "opens up an entirely new world of real-time data acquisition, monitoring, and intervention, and I believe the report by Daskivich et al is only the beginning."

"The general principle of ubiquitous wearable computers bodes well for our future ability to measure, track, and understand patient physiological data and behavior both in the hospital and at home," said Krummel, a thoracic surgeon and co-director of the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign.

"The ability to capture that data, apply machine learning to evolving trends, and alert patients, nurses, and physicians instantaneously is powerful," Krummel said.

“We're operationalizing this pop culture tech device for a real clinical purpose in the hospital, and using rigorous science to guide the process. We think it's exciting and patients are responding to it.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: A. Aleksandravicius / Shutterstock.com


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The researchers gave Fitbit watches to 100 patients on the day after surgery and found that more steps correlated with lower odds of prolonged hospital stays.

Observers believe the use of cheap, wearable computers could greatly enhance the understanding of patient physiological data in the hospital and at home.


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