Smartphone app brings physiology lab into patient’s home

Heart rate variability (HRV) data collection can now be done in any setting thanks to a new app designed by HRV Fit Ltd and PhD candidate James Heathers.

The app, combined with a heart rate sensor for a finger, is based on iThlete: an HRF Fit Ltd app that is already used by professional sports teams and athletes.  iThlete is used to monitor the health of athletes and improve efficacy of training methods.

“The idea struck me because I’m by nature impatient and my area is psychophysiology,” explained Heathers. “I realized the problem was how to get this very useful data more quickly and cheaply.”

HRV data is necessary for psychophysiologic research in areas including emotion, stress and self-control. Currently, HRV data collection is done at universities with chest electrodes connected to a computer. With Heathers’ new app, it can now be done anywhere and it can be done by the patient unsupervised. The sensor is small enough that it can be mailed to the patient.

To address the issue of data contamination from untrained patients, Heathers intends to use quality controls already accepted by the psychophysiologic community including evaluating data consistency.

“This new device will be a huge help in my own research but also has fantastic potential for the research area in general, and I want everyone to have access to it to pursue their own work.”

Heathers presented the concept for his app at the Australasian Society for Psychophysiology conference. The iMedicalApps team has previously reported on the potential use for data collection to aid in their diagnosis and treatment.



Waqaar Khawar

Waqaar Khawar is a fourth year medical student at Ross University School of Medicine. Before medical school, he graduated cum laude from North Carolina State University in 2006 with a degree in Computer Science and worked in the telecom industry. Waqaar is interested in the future of integration of technology in medicine. His focus in iMedicalApps is primarily on news and research in cutting edge technology.

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3 Responses to Smartphone app brings physiology lab into patient’s home

  1. Matthew Valentine, MD December 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Be forewarned that there is no evidence base for any clinical significance of heart rate variability. It is developing pseudoscience, somewhat disguised by the fact that obviously heart rate monitoring in general is vitally important for a variety of medical reasons. It’s just that the claims for beat to beat variability and the relationship of that to mood and psychology is tenuous at best. See this article for more information:

    `I see that this post is pretty much just an unfiltered regurgitation of a press release. I would suggest that iMedicalApps review such releases more carefully before reposting them.

    • Iltifat Husain, MD December 18, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

      The point of the article wasn’t to talk about the evidence based behind this. Rather to show the mobility of these types of devices. We have plenty of articles that talk about the evidence base on mobile medicine:

      E.g. Look at over 30 articles one of our editors has written just on research and mobile medicine:

      More than 50% of our articles are research heavy and talk about evidence based literature — this has been a new focal point at iMA, and it’s why we have started the mHealth Journal club and why with the re-launch of iMA in January there will be a new research division. At the same time, we want to make sure people know about emerging technologies. Unfortunately emerging technologies don’t have much evidence based because they are emerging. We would rather not wait until a RCT is done before reporting on some form of mobile tech. The purpose of this article was merely let our readers know about this technology as we have patients that might be talking about them. Also, our article focused more on how these devices are used in sporting, etc.

    • Timothy Aungst, PharmD December 19, 2012 at 11:17 am #

      I think you bring up a valid point, and really it is a stressful time for practitioners as we see our patients utilizing apps available through mobile devices proliferate. Its important to see where the field of mobile health is going, but there also needs to be some research done in order to establish best practices. Academics and others are realizing this and now studying the impact and validity of these apps. I think a great article was publish in the Washington Post about alot of questionable apps and their role on even being on the App store. We really need to question how apps are developed, reviewed, and sold on the App stores currently I feel.

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