Activity trackers offer insight into symptoms of bone marrow transplant patients

November 24, 2015

A recent study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has found that activity trackers (e.g. Fitbits) may be a valuable tool for assessing patient symptom burden in clinical research.

Dr. Antonia Bennett

Dr. Antonia Bennett

Dr. Bryce Reeve

Dr. Bryce Reeve

Dr. Ethan Basch

Dr. Ethan Basch

Co-authors from the UNC Gillings School include lead author Antonia Bennett, PhD, research assistant professor, second author Bryce Reeve, PhD, professor, and third author Ethan Basch, MD, associate professor, all with the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Gillings School and members of UNC’S Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The research team evaluated activity trackers as a patient-centered outcome to measure symptom burden and function in patients undergoing hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT), also known as bone marrow transplant. A small sample of adult HCT recipients wore pedometers and completed assessments about their symptoms and quality of life for four weeks during transplant hospitalization and four weeks after discharge.

Data analysis found that the number of steps patients take each day is highly correlated with patients’ self-reported symptoms and level of physical function.

Among the 32-person sample group, more severe symptoms, impaired physical health and restrictions in the performance of usual daily activities were associated with statistically significant decreases in measured daily steps.

Accordingly, the researchers concluded that activity tracker (pedometer) data has potential as a patient-centered outcome in oncology and palliative care, especially for patients who cannot self-report due to language, literacy, or cognitive or health status. Because it enables passive continuous assessment of activity, it may provide novel information about the consequences of symptomatic toxicity.

The full report of these findings, titled “Evaluation of pedometry as a patient-centered outcome in patients undergoing hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT): a comparison of pedometry and patient reports of symptoms, health, and quality of life,” was published online Nov. 17 by the journal Quality of Life Research.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu

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