Smartphones could help diagnosis heart rhythm problems

Everyone has smartphones at this point in time. They have a million different functions and sometimes you just cannot put yours down. However, a team of scientists led by the University of Edinburgh say that smartphones could accomplish a completely new function – they could help detecting heart conditions.

A new smart device could present ECG records, which are easy to send to the doctor for further evaluation. (Madhero88, Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Your smartphone already has health-related functions that you may be using. It can count steps, have some fitness app and maybe even measure your pulse. However, it is still not a medical diagnostics tool. Scientists say that there is some potential, which could save time and money in healthcare systems as well and help patients feeling heart rhythm problems. It is calculated that around 300,000 people attend emergency departments each year at UK hospitals with palpitations or feeling faint. Usually nothing serious is diagnosed, but in rarer cases these feelings may be related to some dangerous heart rhythm disorders, which have to be treated. It has everything to do with underlying cause of these symptoms.

Diagnosing conditions related to hearth rhythm is quite difficult. When a patient reaches the hospital, rhythm problems may be gone to a point where electrocardiogram shows nothing out of the ordinary. Scientists now started testing a device, called the AliveCor KardiaMobile, which can be attached to the back of the phone or a tablet and used to take electrocardiogram recordings. Then they can be quickly sent to the doctor for further evaluation. The device itself is easy to use and the entire process is quite streamlined, but what is the actual result of using it?

Scientists gathered a group of 200 volunteers and divided it into two groups. People in one were given AliveCor KardiaMobile, while the other group had to follow traditional protocol of going to the hospital if they felt they are having heart rhythm issues. The device appears to have two benefits. First of all, it allows doctors to present the diagnosis much quicker. Secondly, it presents an opportunity to save money, because diagnosis takes less of the doctor’s time.

It is also good for the patient, because if it is nothing serious, they don’t have to go to the hospital. Dr Matthew Reed, one of the authors of the study, said: “For those with harmless palpitations, this device can quickly give reassurance, whilst for those with serious underlying heart conditions it can act as a lifesaver. We are now calling for this technology to be rolled out in emergency departments across the country”.

Smart solutions to healthcare problems are long overdue. They help people to save time and money and are relatively easy to implement. In fact, most of the obstacles after testing are usually purely bureaucratic.


Source: University of Edinburgh