An electrocardiogram provides a readout of the heart’s electrical activity and is commonly administered at hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices. A new smartphone app and device, the AliveCor Device, recently received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sale without a prescription. With the device and app, an individual can take an electrocardiogram (ECG) at any time and forward the information to a healthcare professional. As a result, a patient can become more involved in his or her healthcare; in addition, the app has the potential to save significant healthcare dollars by facilitating a physician’s decision as to whether a patient should rush to the hospital emergency department (ED).
The new device and application were created by Dr. Dave Albert and AliveCor, The device allows patients to obtain a real-time single lead ECG from their fingertips using their own smartphone. It uses electrodes embedded into a standard telephone case to measure electrical signals in the fingertips. These signals are then transmitted via the phone’s microphone to the AliveCor app on the patient’s phone. Cardiologists are well aware that the ability to obtain a real-time ECG is essential to the treatment of heart rhythm disorders and can also help patients and physicians in the adjustment of therapy and improve care. The app associated with the device assimilates the ECG data and allows a patient to create a PDF file that can be stored and even emailed to their physician. If desired, the application will also upload the file to a secure "cloud" for analysis by the AliveCor staff.
AliveCor notes that the device has many practical applications for patients, including monitoring heart rhythm during periods of symptoms. This correlation of real-time heart rhythm with symptoms is commonly the critical step in helping physicians make a diagnosis and can easily determine if the symptoms are in fact related to a heart rhythm disorder. Furthermore, the app can help patients avoid costly and time-consuming ED when they experience certain symptoms such as palpitations or lightheadedness. Instead of rushing to the ED, a patient can record his heart rhythm with the device, transmit the tracing to his provider and, in many cases, receive reassurance right away. In the case of patients with a previously diagnosed heart rhythm disorder such as atrial fibrillation, the device is an excellent way to help monitor response to therapy between visits to their healthcare provider.
The app is free; however, the AliveCor Device costs $199, which may present an economic hardship for many potential buyers. However, the company is currently seeking Medicare approval for the device; if successful, this will make the product available to many more individuals.