SmartHeart turns your smartphone into a personal ECG

SHL Telemedicine has announced the release of SmartHeart, a lightweight and portable device that they claim can take “hospital-grade” ECGs by “anyone, anywhere, anytime.” The device connects wirelessly to smartphones and can transmit the ECG to a physician for a preliminary diagnosis. The possibilities for a device like this are endless – but so are the questions it raises.

The device greatly streamlines the process of obtaining an ECG as it avoids the need to actually come in to a clinic and can be used to monitor high risk patients from their own homes. The smartphone can then transmit the ECG to an office or a hospital where health care professionals can examine them instantly. As cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US, a low-cost and easily used cardiovascular diagnostic device could have a huge impact on a sizeable part of the population. SmartHeart is set to cost $500, which is less than an iPhone itself.

However, a portable ECG device that anyone can supposedly use raises some major concerns. The first question is its practical application. For a patient to just have this at home implies that they are at high risk for cardiovascular events. Arrhythmias typically require continuous cardiac monitoring rather than a 10-second ECG, which this device does not appear to provide. So, is this device intended to replace a holter monitor, looking for arrhythmias or cardiac events, such as myocardial infarction ?

Furthermore, is it actually as good as hospital-grade ECGs? What is the margin for error in the operation of such a device, particularly when being used by patients potentially in distress?  Finally, it is important to remember that an ECG is only one of many factors that physicians use in their diagnosis of myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, and other forms of heart disease. A device like SmartHeart may even delay in-person evaluation. It could alternatively also lower the barriers, psychological or otherwise, that prevent patients from seeking early evaluation when they have concerning symptoms.

In theory, SmartHeat could be a great way to diagnose heart disease before expensive complications arise. However, there are many questions yet to be answered about the validity and practicality of such an approach. Look for companies such as SHL Telemedicine to keep pushing innovation of similar devices that take advantage of affordable mobile technology, and also for academic studies to evaluate their efficacy.

Source: TechCrunch
Link: SHL Telemedicine


Ankur Gupta

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6 Responses to SmartHeart turns your smartphone into a personal ECG

  1. Alexander June 7, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    It could have a use in finding rare arrhythmias that couldn’t be determined during the patient’s visit at the doctor. Or something that the patient will wear on when he feels symptoms. Or be used as a usual holter… Other than these, there should be a lot of research before it is used in a totally novel way…

    • SMisra June 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      Agree that it will require a fair bit of research before actual value can be determined. Its value in finding a rare arrhythmia will probably be limited as there are not many conduction disorders that are both transiently present and require a 12-lead ECG to diagnose – for those, a holter or event monitor would be more useful. But as you point out, I don’t see why this device couldn’t be modified for use in continuous monitoring.

  2. Zmed441 June 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    where is the receiver to receive the transmission? is it another smartphone or device??

    • SMisra June 8, 2011 at 11:58 am #

      It appears that the smartphone itself will be the receiver for the data.

  3. Jacob July 3, 2012 at 5:07 am #

    In regards to your concern about this device “[delaying] in-person evaluation or “[preventing] patients from seeking early evaluation when they have concerning symptoms,” the exact OPPOSITE is true. People commonly ignore symptoms that are signaling something dangerous. They tell themselves that this pain or that pain will go away and they don’t do anything! Smartheart will actually encourage a person (or provide the opportunity for a spouse or family member to encourage) to do this simple check. I think this device could dramatically increase the number of cases where a person goes in for in-person evaluation because they were able to get a quick and accurate medical diagnosis right away through their smart phone. It’s sort of like having a thermometer around the house can give you a reading that can confirm that you better take some important further steps. People don’t carry thermometers around everywhere they go, but they definitely carry their smart phones everywhere; and, if you have a heart condition, you can easily get in the habit of carrying around this lightweight device.

  4. Adonica Walker,MD January 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    In which countries is smartheart monitor and app available for sale?

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