Data-efficient machine learning methods in the ME-TIME study: Rationale and design of a longitudinal study to detect atrial fibrillation and heart failure from wearables

Arman Naseri*, David Tax, Pim van der Harst, Marcel Reinders, Ivo van der Bilt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Background: Smartwatches enable continuous and noninvasive time series monitoring of cardiovascular biomarkers like heart rate (from photoplethysmograms), step counter, skin temperature, et cetera; as such, they have promise in assisting in early detection and prevention of cardiovascular disease. Although these biomarkers may not be directly useful to physicians, a machine learning (ML) model could find clinically relevant patterns. Unfortunately, ML models typically need supervised (ie, annotated) data, and labeling of large amounts of continuous data is very labor intensive. Therefore, ML methods that are data efficient, ie, needing a low number of labels, are required to detect potential clinical value in patterns found in wearable data. Objective: The primary study objective of the ME-TIME (Machine Learning Enabled Time Series Analysis in Medicine) study is to design an ML model that can detect atrial fibrillation (AF) and heart failure (HF) from wearable data in a data-efficient manner. To achieve this, self-supervised and weakly supervised learning techniques are used. Methods: Two hundred subjects (100 reference, 50 AF, and 50 HF) are being invited to participate in wearing a Fitbit fitness tracker for 3 months. Interested volunteers are sent a questionnaire to determine their health, in particular cardiovascular health. Volunteers without any (history of) serious illness are assigned to the reference group. Participants with AF and HF are recruited in the Haga teaching hospital in The Hague, The Netherlands. Results: Enrollment commenced on May 1, 2022, and as of the time of this report, 62 subjects have been included in the study. Preliminary analysis of the data reveals significant inter-subject variability. Notably, we identified heart rate recovery curves and time-delayed correlations between heart rate and step count as potential strong indicators for heart disease. Conclusion: Using self-supervised and multiple-instance learning techniques, we hypothesize that patterns specific to AF and HF can be found in continuous data obtained from smartwatches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
JournalCardiovascular Digital Health Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Heart failure
  • Machine learning
  • mHealth
  • Multiple-instance learning
  • Self-supervised learning
  • Smartwatch
  • Wearables


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