A&E departments in the UK should introduce AliveCor’s KardiaMobile device into standard care, researchers have said, for patients presenting with heart palpitations or feeling lightheaded, after a study found it was five times more effective than current tests used to diagnose heart rhythm problems.
Although often harmless, if patients fully recover before getting to A&E, detecting the underlying cause of these symptoms can be difficult as ECG recordings of their heart rhythm could appear normal.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian carried out a randomised controlled trial of the AliveCor device, including around 240 people that presented to 15 hospitals in the UK with heart palpitations or pre-syncope (which they define in the study as “the sense of impending loss of consciousness”).
A study group was given the device to take home and another underwent standard care, being asked to go to hospital or their GP practice if experiencing further symptoms.
The results, published in the EClinical Medicine journal, indicated that ECGs taken with the smartphone device allowed doctors to diagnose 56 percent of patients in 9.5 days on average, compared to 10 percent of patients that received standard care, diagnosed in an average of 43 days.
By using the AliveCor KardiaMobile device, researchers said the cost of the average diagnosis could be reduced by more than £900 - from £1395 to £474.
“We’ve shown that this device is an easy, cheap way to diagnose heart rhythm problems that usually see people attending emergency departments several times before they’re diagnosed,” said Dr Matthew Reed, lead author of the study.
“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.”
While the study only looked at the AliveCor device, various similar innovations have been entering the market lately.
In September last year, Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams announced that the company had received FDA clearance for an ECG to be built into its Series 4 Apple Watch.
But AliveCor interim CEO Ira Bahr told MobiHealthNews in February that the company was “not convinced that Apple’s excellent, engaging product is a competitor yet”.
“We believe that from a price perspective, this product is least accessible to the people who need it most. If you’re not an Apple user, you’ve got to buy an Apple Watch, you’ve got to buy an iPhone to make the system work.
“So their technology is excellent, but we think the platform is both complicated and expensive and certainly not, from a marketing perspective, targeting the patient populations we target,” Bahr added.