The App and The Cardiologist

New phone technology helps doctors get a read on patients’ pulse

Most cardiologists need at least 30 minutes and heavy medical equipment to get an EKG. ThedaCare’s David Beiser, MD, needs…an app.

Specifically, the AliveCor Heart Monitor app for the iPhone.

“[System vice president of cardiovascular services] Larry Sobal mentioned at one of our meetings that the device was available and asked if anyone wanted to try it,” Dr. Beiser recalled. “I have a lot of patients with atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias, so I thought I’d give it a try.”

In the pre-app world, a nurse would have to set up the EKG equipment, attach 12 electrode leads to the patient, and wait 20-30 minutes for results. Now, Dr. Beiser can simply place the FDA-approved, two-electrode iPhone attachment on a patient’s fingers or chest. “I can set it up to record 10, 20 or 30 seconds of data,” he said. “So far, I’ve been using 30.”

Nurses love that it saves them time and prevents having to set up a full EKG. When care teams are seeing 17 patients in a day, it doesn’t throw off the schedule as much if a patient has unexpected arrhythmia. Patients themselves also are fans of Dr. Beiser’s “handheld EKG recorder,” as he’s dubbed it.

“They tell me, ‘Doc, you’re using the latest technology!’ They’re really blown away by it and love the ease of use,” he said.

It’s made diagnoses faster as well. The entire EKG tracing is visible on the phone’s screen, and Dr. Beiser hopes that one day that information can also be transferred directly into the patient’s EMR. “If I hear an irregular heart rhythm with my stethoscope, I can double check it with this app. In 30 seconds, I can identify PACs (premature atrial contractions) and PVCs (premature ventricular contractions and atrial flutters/fibrillation),” said Dr. Beiser. “Then, if I discover something with the app, I can follow up with an EKG if needed to make it official.”

It’s been fantastic for patients who visit without knowing they have an arrhythmia and for the elderly. Since it’s easily portable, Dr. Beiser takes it with him on the road when he travels to see patients in Shawano. He’s also been impressed that the app can pick up other abnormalities, like conduction abnormalities or even a myocardial infarction.