Here’s an interesting idea. Using an application on your smartphone, as a holter monitor. The use of the smartphone in medical technology hasn’t really reached any sort of potential as yet, however we’re starting to see some great new apps.

I have had paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, that has usually occured secondary to drinking more than one or two glasses of wine. I have a little app called Heart Rate, that allows me to put my finger on the camera and light source and it acts like a pulse oximeter, allowing me to look at my pulse rate and tracing. I use this if I believe I’m having an irregular heart rhythm. In every case it’s been harmless ventricular ectopics, which are not uncommon in the community. I love having the ability to make my own assessment, on the spot.

In a study published by McMacnus, et. al. in Heart Rhythm, 2012, an iPhone 4S and an application on it, allowed patients to assess at their own heart rhythm. 76 adult patients with persistent atrial fibrillation were recruited. They were about to undergo elective cardioversion. They assessed their own heart rhythm prior to the cardioversion and then tested their rhythm again, following successful cardioversion, into normal sinus rhythm. The sensitivity and specificity of the iPhone app in discriminating irregular pulses during atrial fibrillation from a normal sinus rhythm was 96% and 97% respectively.

One of the great features of this app was that the patient, could then send the results directly to their doctor via email, allowing the doctor to make clinical decisions. Imagine a patient presenting to the emergency department, saying, I felt palpitations and here is my cardiac tracing recorded on my phone. Now we still have a long way to go with this and these apps need to be approved, however, I see this as the beginning of a brand new set of medical apps and the positioning of the smartphone, certainly within the medical community, as more than a device for playing Angry Birds and watching funny YouTube videos.

 I think that the move towards producing more medically-oriented smartphone apps is certainly an industry we should be encouraging, because it allows the patient to take greater responsibility and greater control of their medical conditions, actively participating in their diagnosis.

What can we use the smartphone for? I believe were are only seeing the beginnings of this new technology. Bring it on!

I’m setting up a technology think-tank, to see what we can come up with in the area medical apps, ie., simple medical technology, that make a huge difference. If you’re interested in being part of the process, sent me an email at info@resus.com.au.