Research Finds Smartphone App Useful Tool for Heart Monitoring

Published May 20, 2016

Department of Medicine researchers found a smartphone app can track palpitations in heart patients as effectively as 14-day event monitors that are the current standard of care.

The study, presented at the annual Heart Rhythm Society meeting in San Francisco, also found the AliveCor Heart Monitor smartphone app “significantly easier to use” than ambulatory monitors.

App More Accurate and Leads to Better Compliance

During the study, 32 patients who had symptoms of cardiac arrhythmias were required to use both methods for two weeks to record when they felt palpitations.

Department of Medicine researchers found the smartphone app correctly recorded 91 percent of total arrhythmic events experienced by the patients compared to 87.5 percent recorded by the event monitors.

As important as its accuracy was that 94 percent of patients using the app complied with requests for monitoring, versus 58 percent with standard monitors.

“We showed that we can do as well with the app as with the event monitors,” says senior author and UB Distinguished Professor Anne B. Curtis, MD, Charles and Mary Bauer Professor and chair of medicine. “The app is easier for patients to use and much more acceptable to them.”

Ambulatory Monitors Irritating and Cumbersome

Curtis, who is also chief executive officer of UBMD Internal Medicine, says the app does not have the drawbacks of event monitors that cardiac patients have to wear for anywhere from two to four weeks.

“The event monitors require electrocardiographic electrodes to be attached to the patient’s skin, which can be irritating,” she says. “Then the patient has to wear the device that is attached to the electrodes, which is somewhat cumbersome.”

Curtis notes most patients do not like to wear the monitors in public, therefore compliance is often poor.

A patient experiencing palpitations must press a button on the monitor to note they are having symptoms and then indicate what type of symptom it is either on a paper log or by inputting the information onto the monitor.

With the smartphone app, the patient experiencing palpitations puts a finger from each hand onto the surface of an electrode attached to the smartphone case. The data can then be uploaded to the AliveCor server through a secure, HIPAA-compliant transmission.

Several Contributors Involved in Study

Deepika Narasimha, MD, a former medical resident in the Department of Medicine and current cardiology fellow at Loma Linda University, is the study’s first author.

Co-authors on the study are: