Many mobile health gadgets today started off as modified fitness trackers, or simply already developed medical devices altered to be powered by a mobile phone. It’s a booming industry that is exciting to follow, but sometimes products can seem repetitive. Recently, however, there have been a few companies that are truly changing the flavor of mobile gadgets by providing unique tools for previously unavailable services. The AliveCor Heart Monitor is one such device.
AliveCor has been perfecting the mobile phone customized electrocardiogram (ECG), building up to a point where they are FDA approved for over the counter use, and the data collected from their devices can even be directly integrated into EHRs. After interviewing the AliveCor CEO Euan Thomson, I wanted to find out first hand what this device was all about. Here is my product review.
Appearance and Design
Small, slim, and simple. The device itself is compact enough to fit in the palm of your hand and is very lightweight. You can stick the dock for the device to a phone case or you can purchase a phone case with the device integrated within, availability depending on your model phone. It does add some thickness to your phone, but not too cumbersome unless you are determined to carry it around with you indefinitely. I found it most practical to attach it to a cheap, basic cover for my phone, and use that phone cover on the days I wanted to use the device.
This was impressive. While I am somewhat tech savvy, from opening the package to getting heart readings took about 3 minutes. You download the free app, set up a quick account with some basic information, and after a few instructions you are live and pulsing. There isn’t even pairing of the device to the phone because the AliveCor Heart Monitor transmits its data using sound waves, by quietly squeaking the signal that is picked up by the phone’s microphone.
It is a fairly straightforward gadget. The app is intuitive, and has three main divisions: ECG recording, collected data, and a great educational portion. A great use for the AliveCor Heart Monitor is during an experience of symptoms a person has described to their physician in the past. Palpitations, for example, can come and go at random, and relevant data from the actual episodes yields helpful insights for healthcare providers.
I took readings at different times during the day, at different levels of physical activity, and at varied stress levels. You can input notes with you readings to indicate what time of the day it is, if you just worked out, or that you just drank a gallon of coffee.
There is an ECG analysis service that is offered at varying tiers. A “Preliminary finding by a US based cardiac technician” for $2 (24 hr turnaround) or $5 (30 min turnaround). For $12 one can receive “Clinical Analysis & Report by a US Board Certified Cardiologist,” which includes a doctor recommended course of action.
The AliveCor Heart Monitor does what it does well. A single lead ECG does not replace a conventional 12 lead ECG and thus has technical limitations in detecting many conditions, but it is a practical and simple device that will open new frontiers for data collection in cardiology. It is already being used by some cardiologists to track patients with atrial fibrillation, and has even been covered by Medicare in some circumstances. I look forward to seeing how the AliveCor Heart Monitor changes cardiac patient population management, and will eagerly await what comes next from AliveCor.