Smartphone-based community ECG readings may help save lives as well as healthcare dollars, according to a study unveiled by mobile health company AliveCor.
Researchers in Australia used AliveCor’s iPhone heart rhythm reader to screen 1,000 elderly pharmacy customers for signs of atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm underlying a third of all strokes. The screenings turned up 15 previously undiscovered cases of AF, all indicating a high risk of stroke, according to a press release.
"Screening with iECG in pharmacies with an automated algorithm is both feasible and cost-effective," the researchers wrote in an article published this month in the online issue of the journal Thrombosis & Haemostasis. "Guideline recommendation of community iECG AF screening should be considered."
Identifying new instances of AF could give physicians a chance to prevent strokes, preserve quality of life and potentially save thousands of dollars. The researchers estimated that routine screenings could save more than $4,000 per Quality Adjusted Life Year gained, as well as nearly $20,700 for preventing a single stroke.
In the trial, pharmacists at 10 community pharmacies in suburban Australia captured 30-60-second heart rhythm readings from patients aged 65 and older. The readings were transmitted wirelessly to cardiologists for evaluation and further examinations were conducted in patients who were flagged by the mobile screenings.
Most of the patients diagnosed through the trial had no symptoms of AF, making them particularly hard to find and treat by traditional means.
"In many cases AF is not known before a stroke, so screening for AF and treating with effective medications could make an impact on reducing the community burden of stroke," lead study cardiologist Dr. Ben Freedman said in prepared remarks on behalf of AliveCor.
"We believe these findings have great significance for health providers and should become part of routine practice as this type of screening program is a cost effective way to identify patients with asymptomatic atrial fibrillation; a condition that can lead to potentially life threatening complications," AliveCor president & CEO Euan Thomson said.
San Francisco, Calif.-based AliveCor has been making major strides, having recently won over-the-counter clearance for its smartphone ECG, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. The company also announced last month that it partnered with electronic health record provider Practice Fusion to seamlessly integrate mobile ECG readings into patient records.