The cardiac tracing is perhaps one of the most recognizable images in medicine, having been developed over 100 years ago. When a patient hits the door of a clinic or emergency rooms, it remains essentially the only tool to assess the heart at that moment (aside, of course, from a good history and physical exam). As such, interpretation of the ECG is a skill taught to all medical students, for whom this is much easier said than done.
Over the next few weeks, iMedicalApps will review a number of ECG applications available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. They take many different approaches to the teaching of ECG interpretation, some with more success than others. But given the importance of this skill and the ubiquitous nature of the test, we’ll take a look at what’s available and crown the best one. We’ll start this series by taking a look at Easy ECG.
Unlike many of the other ECG applications in the App Store, Easy ECG, by Cody Blount, is not a full reference text. Instead it allows the user to interpret cardiac rhythms in lead 2 by allowing the user to answer a series of simple questions based on the presence, absence, or measurement of various characteristics of a patient’s ECG printout.
The application poses a series of questions regarding the patient’s ECG. The user’s answer to each question follows a diagnostic algorithm that identifies one of the forty most common rhythms.
To help answer each question, a sample ECG complex is provided with the particular characteristic highlighted. Questions continue to be posed to the user until a conclusion is reached.
Further information about each question or diagnosis can be found via the information button in the corner.
Information regarding the physiology of each diagnosis is accessible from the home page. However, it should be noted that the detail provided is limited.
This application is designed for EMTs, paramedics, nurses, residents and medical students of all levels. Easy ECG is straightforward and easy to use. However, this application does not provide the required level of detail for the purpose of physicians. The lack of detail primarily explains its lack of suitability. Admittedly, the developer acknowledges this is the case and that its purpose is to learn interpretation skills.
When students are initially taught how to read an ECG, they are taught to follow a structure in order to avoid mistakes. However, Easy ECG does not appear to follow a regular structure: the answer to each question will affect the next question posed. It is therefore challenging for the user to learn how to interpret ECGs as the user is not aware of the algorithm used by the program.
- Good idea to have a diagnostic algorithm for ECGs
- Not enough detail for practicing clinicians
- No consistent structure for interpreting ECG
- No sample ECGs
- Whilst the idea behind Easy ECG is a step forward for mobile medical technology, in practice it is does not quite achieve its goal of teaching ECG interpretation due to lack of detail and sample ECGs.
- Unfortunately, the diagnostic algorithm approach is prone to multiple errors and it prevents the user from learning while the program makes all the decisions.