Advances in computer science and telecommunications are changing the ways cardiologists can prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease. Telecardiology is making use of smartphone and other mobile technologies are having an effect on telecardiology and other telehealth services. Technology has increased demand for telecardiology services, while providing the means to meet that demand.
The Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, promotes the use of telehealth technologies for health care delivery, education, and health information services. It defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include video conferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.
Don’t think that it is just the millennial generation which is adopting new technology. A 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center notes that while seniors adopt new technology at a lower rate than the general public, they are more digitally connected than ever before. As of 2017, 40% of seniors reported owning smartphones, more than double the proportion of 2013. Younger, more affluent, and more highly educated seniors report owning and using various technologies at rates similar to adults under the age of 65.
Over eight years ago, as consumers were starting to use smartphones, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the premiere professional organization of computer and electronics professionals, saw the potential of mobile devices to revolutionize cardiology. IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine published a study examining the potential of an intelligent telecardiology system involving wireless devices to improve healthcare for cardiovascular disease. The article predicted a future where a business-card-like EKG device, along with a mobile phone, would make universal cardiac protection service possible. The system was particularly useful for the detection and management of atrial fibrillation (Afib), a commonly diagnosed hearth arrhythmia.
The IEEE article describes a system consisting of a lightweight, energy-efficient wireless EKG device equipped with a built-in automatic warning expert system and connected to a mobile real-time display platform. The acquired EKG signals are instantaneously transmitted to mobile devices, such as laptops or mobile phones through Bluetooth, and then processed by an expert system. An alert signal is sent to the remote database server, which can be accessed by an Internet browser, once an abnormal EKG is detected. Their expert system has the ability to identify five types of abnormal cardiac rhythms in real-time, including sinus tachycardia, sinus bradycardia, wide QRS complex, atrial fibrillation, and cardiac asystole, which is very important for both the subjects who are being monitored and the healthcare personnel tracking cardiac-rhythm disorders. The proposed system can also activate an emergency medical alarm system if problems occur. Their clinical testing found the proposed system to be approximately 94% accurate, with high sensitivity, specificity, and positive prediction rates for ten normal subjects and 20 AF patients.
In June 2018 the Journal of the American College of Cardiology sponsored a focus seminar on the future technology of cardiovascular care. Several recent JACC articles described how smartphones, smart watches, mobile apps and other technologies will change the prevention and treatment of heart disease.
Mobile health, or mHealth, focuses on mobile devices, including wearable devices, and the software applications they use. The JACC article Mobile Health Advances in Physical Activity, Fitness, and Atrial Fibrillation: Moving Hearts reported: “The growing recognition that ‘health’ takes place outside of the hospital and clinic, plus recent advances in mobile and wearable devices, have propelled the field of mobile health (mHealth). Cardiovascular disease and prevention are major opportunities for mHealth, as mobile devices can monitor key physiological signals (e.g., physical activity, heart rate and rhythm) for promoting healthy behaviors, detecting disease, and aid in ongoing care.” Their review highlighted recent the potential of smartphones and wearable devices not only to promote exercise but also to monitor heart rate and rhythm.
In cardiology, multiple-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) recording is the standard way to analyze the heart and detect irregularities that might lead to serious health problems such as a stroke or heart attack. Traditional EKG recorders requires professional setup which cannot be done by individuals without medical training. Some patients regard the necessary skin preparation as intrusive. In Italy D-Heart has designed a professional-quality EKG which does not require a medical background to use. The system facilitates the use of data collected outside the health care setting.
The proliferation of mobile sensors will allow physicians of the future to monitor, interpret, and respond to additional streams of biomedical data collected remotely and automatically. As patients expect faster and more personalized care, physicians are being inundated with data requiring more sophisticated interpretation while being expected to perform more efficiently. As expert systems develop into artificial intelligence (AI) systems, practitioners will be able to interpret increasing amounts of data. Clinical practice will become more efficient, more convenient, more personalized, and more effective.
You don’t have to wait for the development of future technology to realize the benefits of telecardiology. Specialist Direct provides end-to-end telehealth solutions in areas that include telecardiology, telepathology and teleradiology. Our highest priority is to ensure that patients receive the absolute best in clinical care. We pride ourselves in providing the highest levels of customer support within the industry. Furthermore, our customers very much appreciate our ability to meet their study turnaround requirements. Our solutions utilize world-class, cloud-based, HIPAA compliant technology. Contact us for information on how you can implement telecardiology in your medical practice.