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The Role of Wearable Fitness Trackers in Wellness Initiatives: A Pilot Study

Nicholas Rossi

The University of Texas Medical Branch


Introduction: With increasing rates of burnout among healthcare professionals, administrative policies promoting wellness have garnered significant attention. Several studies in the literature have demonstrated a positive association with increased sleep and exercise on reducing burnout, and wearable fitness trackers offer a means for healthcare professionals to monitor these wellness parameters. However, institutional initiative protocols using fitness trackers vary widely in scope, and data is generally limited due to short study length and lack of compliance. This pilot study represents the longest longitudinal study time period of any healthcare professional to date with the purpose of demonstrating feasibility of data collection. Methods: Retrospective review of three consecutive years of Fitbit data from 2016-18 from a single medical student. Resting heart rate, minutes slept per night, and sleep efficiency were examined over a three-year study period for trends. All data were copied into Microsoft Excel 2016 (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA) from the Fitbit app, and Excel formulas were utilized for all data analysis. Results: Average resting heart rate over the study period was 46.6 beats per minute (BPM) with a minimum value of 40 BPM and a maximum of 59 BPM. In the 4-week dedicated STEP 1 study period, resting heart rate averaged 51.3 BPM and rose to a maximum of 58 BPM. Average resting heart rate during preclinical studies was 46.8 BPM and during clinical rotations was 45.9 BPM. Average time slept during the study period was 385.5 minutes per night (6 hours, 25.5 minutes). On average the subject slept 391.4 minutes per night during preclinical studies versus 379.8 minutes per night during third-year clinical rotations. Conclusion: Wearable fitness trackers may provide a means to track health parameters known to be associated with burnout. More data is needed to recommend wearable fitness trackers as an adjunct to institutional wellness initiatives. In future studies, a larger cohort of users who may be followed prospectively during residency training is needed, and the data may be utilized to monitor and ultimately lead to improvements in wellness of healthcare professionals.

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