According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. As this is the case, there are many of us in the U.S. — and across the globe — who have had heart disease or cardiac illnesses affect our lives in many unpleasant ways. Today, thanks to advances in modern technology, we are beginning to see services, devices, and applications that may one day prevent heart attacks and heart-related conditions (currently, 1 American has a heart attack every 34 seconds). SHL Telemedicine, which is bringing personalized health care to mobile, announced today at Disrupt NYC a new medical gadget called “smartheart”. Smartheart is a lightweight personal electrocardiogram (or ECG) that allows you to monitor your heart in realtime.
Using smartheart, within 30 seconds, any end user is able to record a hospital-grade ECG and transmit it to their doctor, cardiologist, or hospital to get a diagnosis in realtime. Those who’ve experienced electrocardiograms at a hospital or doctor’s office know that the process typically involves lying down on a bed, while doctors prod you with multiple sticky monitors, attaching them to different places on the chest. Smartheart, on the other hand, is lighter and sleeker than traditional ECGs, only involves one monitor, and can be strapped around the chest. Smartheart ECGs, as I was lucky enough to demonstrate onstage, can be made standing up.
The accompanying free app, which is available on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry, connects to the ECG wirelessly, and displays, through a nifty interface, the level of battery power and connectivity. Once the device has been configured with the app, connection happens within seconds. Then, you’re free to begin taking your pulse, so to speak. In as little as 30 seconds, the app will display your results and give you the opportunity to email them directly to your physician. For those who find themselves in harrowing circumstances, the app will immediately identify an irregular or abnormal heart condition and send an alert to the user in realtime.
And the best thing? The device itself will cost $500. That’s less than the price of an iPhone, and generally speaking, the iPhone (itself) can’t save your life. Yet. Further data analysis, reports, and other medical advice will be made available on a subscription basis for what Smartheart VP Shay Leibovitz said will be a low price, “way under $20 a month”, he says.
Now, as someone who had heart surgery at a young age, I am without a doubt biased towards this kind of technology. But, to me, a free application and a lightweight, hospital-grade, and cheap device that can be used by anyone with a smartphone, from anwhere, is pretty cool. Really cool. Not only that, but the potential positive medical effects a device like this could have is dramatic. Considering that Leibovitz says that 50 percent of heart-related deaths happen before one can get to the hospital, preemptive monitoring and treatment can have some amazing life-saving potential.