The future of heart monitoring technology is wearable. Cardiac arrhythmias can be treated if they’re detected. But they can only be detected if the patient is connected to a medical device that can monitor heartbeats and detect abnormalities. A new generation of heart monitoring devices is showcasing the medical device industry’s evolution toward products that are smaller, portable, and wearable.
The 12-lead electrocardiogram that doctors use to diagnose heart abnormalities can only be used while the patient is in a hospital or physician’s office. To detect abnormalities over time and as they happen, heart specialists must be able to tracks a patient’s heart rhythms continuously over time. For the last 50 years, the Holter monitor was that standard device.
Holter monitors have five to seven leads to capture cardiovascular activity, which is sent to a central processing unit that is affixed to the body. But some patients consider the Holter monitor bulky and cumbersome. Recent research shows that patients are warming to smaller, wearable heart monitors, according to Medgadget. The ZIO patch, made by iRhythm Technologies, is a water-resistant sensor that a patient can wear for up to 14 continuous days. At the end of that two-week period, the patient sends the sensor back to iRhythm, where the data collected by the device can be analyzed to detect arrhythmias. Another options is a remote monitoring device made by eCardio that can store recordings of patient heartbeats for up to 30 days and provide that data to cardiologists, regardless of wireless coverage.
Heart monitoring devices are now also moving beyond prescription products into the over-the-counter space. Consumers can buy a mobile phone app and attachment from the company AliveCor. By pressing their fingers to the smartphone attachment, or holding the attachment to the chest, patients can get a heart reading. Unlike the iRhythm device, the AliveCor product sends the information into the cloud, where it can be accessed by the patient’s doctor. Alternatively, patients who want a more immediate reading can request that physician’s contracted with AliveCor view the reading to render a medical opinion. This feature is offered in partnership with eCardio, which provides the remote readings to AliveCor patients within 24 hours, explains MobiHealthNews.
Now researchers are testing the mobile heart monitoring devices in a broader set of heart conditions. Intermountain Healthcare is among a number of healthcare providers studying AliveCor as a way to detect heart attacks, MobiHealthNews reports. That application could expand the consumer use of the device and make it a product that useful for paramedics, first responders, and emergency room physicians. Meanwhile, iRhythm’s Zio is being readied for additional clinical studies in the United States and Canada testing the device as a way to detect silent atrial fibrillation, according to iMedicalApps. These devices, the website notes, could “offer an opportunity to make atrial fibrillation screening much more scalable, practical, and cost effective.”
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