Smartphones can save lives and are five times more effective at diagnosing heart conditions in people suffering life-threatening palpitations and near blackouts, according to a new study.
The research led by Dr Matt Reed from Emergency Medicine Research Group Edinburgh (EMERGE) at NHS Lothian found that by using a smartphone-based ECG recorder, which records heart rhythm and electrical activity, patients are more likely to receive a diagnosis than those receiving current standard care.
The development, which is being recommended for use across A&E departments - could save thousands of lives as people often go for months, and sometimes years, without a diagnosis.
A phone can be turned it into an ECG recorder by attaching a small device.
This means that patients can monitor their heart rhythm on the go, making them more likely to catch the palpitation as they happen, which is vital for providing a diagnosis.
The study, published today in the Lancet eClinical Medicine, was funded by both Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland and the British Heart Foundation and is the first ever randomised controlled trial investigating the use of a smartphone-based ECG recorder.
Dr Reed, urged the NHS to ensure the “relatively cheap technology” quickly becomes part of routine care for these patients.
Jane-Claire Judson, Chief Executive of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, said: “It’s fantastic to see the life-changing benefits that the research our generous supporters have funded has on people’s lives.
“With over 300,000 people in the UK presenting to the Emergency Department with palpitations and near blackout every year, this device could save thousands of lives.
“Living with a heart condition can have a huge impact on people’s daily lives.
“People can become anxious about leaving the house and often fear being on their own in case they fall ill.
“This device, which is so easy to use, could give people the security that their symptoms are being recorded and lead to that much needed diagnosis.
“It is vital that it is rolled out across Scotland so that people don’t have to live their lives in fear and wait years for a diagnosis which could transform their lives.”
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation who part-funded the research, said that palpitations are normally a temporary but noticeable rapid or irregular fluttering of the heartbeat.
He added: “These need to be investigated by a doctor, either to reassure people experiencing them that they are harmless or to diagnose and treat any underlying heart problem. By taking advantage of the tech that we carry around in our pockets every day, this cutting-edge device makes sure that it’s easy for people experiencing palpitations to directly record their heartbeat.
“They can then relay the information rapidly to a doctor and improve their diagnosis. This device could spare people from further anxiety, save the NHS money and, more importantly, save lives.”
NHS Lothian medical director Dr Tracey Gillies said: “The KardiaMobile is a great example of how we can use everyday gadgets, like smartphones, to improve our patients’ health and quality of life.”