Medtech World News: Monitoring Your Heart on the Go

January 10, 2011 – 9:00 am

It seems as if 2010 was the year of medical apps for smartphones. Faster, easier, cheaper­, more convenient and personalised are the buzz words these days. But can your smartphone really accurately monitor your heart rate? And how smart is it to rely on your smartphone for such vital information?

As reported on medtechinsider in August 2010, German company Medical Marketing Berlin GmbH has developed a medical smartphone for the fast and simple measurement, recording and dispatching of ECG readings to a doctor or hospital. Using an application called Heart Suite, the user places two fingers against the edge of the phone for 30 seconds. The data is then sent in an xml file to a designated monitor.

Similar mobile apps introduced last year include an ECG for BlackBerry smartphones as well as one for Android smartphones. And now, US-company Alivecor has introduced an app for ECG readings at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. The iPhone ECG system, which allows iPhone users to check their heart rate and cardiac activity, is not yet available for sale, nor has it been cleared as a medical device in the United States. Designed for people with a heart condition, the system includes a low-power, unobtrusive sleeve that is supposed to take clinic-quality cardiac event readings and determine if the user should be seen by a medical professional to evaluate the seriousness of a cardiac event. Furthermore, the sleeve has wireless capabilities, so it doesn’t have to be attached to the iPhone itself to take readings. Super convenient, isn’t it?

As much fun as those apps are, can they really save users with a heart condition time and money? Or are they just another gadget people can use to show off their iPhones? While it may be convenient and save time, I honestly doubt that this should have much real-life medical relevancy or replace a trip to your doctor. A proper physician looks at the body as a whole because each person responds and functions differently. And since personalised healthcare is becoming increasingly popular, my advice is to go and talk to your doctor in person. And don’t hang up on your regular physical just yet.

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