Send ECGs Via Smartphone? AliveCor Says Yes - InformationWeek

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Healthcare // Mobile & Wireless
03:40 PM

Send ECGs Via Smartphone? AliveCor Says Yes

Mobile heart monitor company teams with telemedicine firm to offer patients ECG analysis via smartphone.

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Consumers who use AliveCor's mobile heart monitor can now send ECGs via their smartphones to cardiologists employed by CompuMed, a company that interprets ECGs for other physicians. Alternatively, patients can transmit an ECG to a technician service and receive a "technical read" without medical advice.

Euan Thomson, CEO of AliveCor, told InformationWeek Healthcare that he's unaware of any other alliance between a manufacturer of mobile medical devices and a telemedicine firm. Neither American Well nor MDLive -- both leading telemedicine companies -- advertise this feature on their websites.

Traditional telemedicine services, such as those that specialists use to remotely examine patients in rural areas, include the ability to hook up scopes and other medical devices to the videoconferencing equipment. But these are very expensive setups that are not designed for consumer use.

[What is "mHealth," and how could it change healthcare? Read How Mobile Devices Reshape Patient Care.]

The AliveCor Heart Monitor is the only FDA-cleared mobile ECG recorder that supports both iPhone and Android smartphones, the company says. In the US, a patient must have a doctor's prescription to purchase the device, which costs $199. The accompanying smartphone app can be downloaded for free.

Thomson said that AliveCor's US customers are divided about evenly between physicians and patients. Of the doctors, fewer than half are cardiologists; the rest are mostly primary care doctors who use AliveCor's single-lead ECG for routine screening purposes. A 12-lead machine is required for a full ECG, but that isn't cost-effective for primary care doctors, who are paid very little for these tests, he said.

According to Thomson, doctors prescribe AliveCor's heart monitor primarily to people who fall into one of two categories: patients with atrial fibrillation, and the "worried well," who are concerned that they might have a heart condition even though tests don't indicate that they do. Using the AliveCor mobile device can help reassure these people.

If patients wonder what their ECG means and don't want to bother their personal physician between visits, they might want to send it to CompuMed, Thomson said. A cardiologist will get back to them within 24 hours to tell them whether they should be concerned and what they should do. After that, he said, the patient might send their ECGs to the technician service. That service, which is separate from CompuMed, charges $2 per "read." The technical reads come back to their smartphone, and a dictionary built into the AliveCor app explains the terms that the technicians use.

The ECGs and the reports, including those from CompuMed, are stored on a physician portal. When the patient visits his or her doctor, that clinician can log into the portal, view the data, and discuss it with the patient.

Thomson expects this new system will make prescribing AliveCor more attractive to physicians. Until recently, he noted, patients would email ECGs to their physicians, and many doctors were understandably wary of being overwhelmed by emails. Having the ECGs stored on a portal makes them easier to deal with.

Physicians don't have to worry about increasing their liability risk if they don't constantly look at new ECGs on the portal, Thomson said. As long as they tell patients upfront that they'll view them only during face-to-face encounters, they're protected.

"Hundreds of physicians have prescribed this technology, so they concur they're not increasing their liability by doing so," he observed, adding that more than 1,000 patients now use AliveCor's device on a regular basis, and some practices are prescribing it to all of their appropriate patients.

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User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2014 | 4:38:21 AM
That's Great!
SMart phone technology is grwoing very rapidly and there is no doubt that, it has great features, which are increasing day by day.
Ken Terry
Ken Terry,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/27/2013 | 10:39:20 AM
Re: phone updates?
As far as I know, once the FDA approves a medical device and/or an app that turns a smartpphone into a medical device, it's good to go. I don't think a vendor needs to re-apply when it adds Android or Windows phone capability to iPhone capability, e.g. The AliveCor system includes both the mobile device and the app, so they must have been approved concurrently.
Andrew Froehlich
Andrew Froehlich,
User Rank: Moderator
11/27/2013 | 10:31:21 AM
phone updates?
Hi Ken -- thanks for the informative read. I know that the FDA recently approved smartphones and apps to be regulated in one of two categories...the first being more informative health information, while the second could cause the patient harm if the device doesn't properly work. I'm guessing that the ECG app falls into the first category and is therefore not held to the high standards of other medical devices. Do you have any information if app developers want to design category 2 devices? I just wonder how OS and app updates would be handled. Normally, these applications whould have to be re-certified by the FDA...and since mobile apps and operating systems change so frequently, I don't see how that's even possible.
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