Mobile EKG monitor looks to help atrial fibrillation patients

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Mobile EKG monitor. Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on May 1. (WPVI)

Some doctors are testing a new device that could make life a bit easier for people with a common heart problem.

This has the potential to help a lot of people.

Testing is underway to see if a new device, added to a simple smartphone, can accurately monitor your heart rhythm. It's geared towards people with atrial fibrillation.

Tom Cooney, 69, always has a bag packed.

"I do a lot of traveling. Thousands of miles sometimes a week," Cooney said.

Cooney also has atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm condition.

It's often monitored with a portable EKG.

That makes traveling a challenge, until Cooney got something new.

"You can do this everywhere, except in the air. If you can get a connection, you can do this," Cooney said.

Cooney was part of a trial at the Cleveland Clinic, testing new technology that combines a specially wired smartphone case with an app to record heart rhythms.

"You can just hold your phone and make sure your fingers are touching the metal plates on the back of the device and it records your rhythm strip," Dr. Khaldoun Tarakji explained.

A recent study found the recording from the smartphone device were comparable to those from traditional heart monitors.

"As far as the recordings themselves, they have excellent sensitivity and specificity, so it did the job," Tarakji said.

Recordings can be saved, then emailed to a doctor.

Cooney says the technology makes monitoring his heart more convenient, and gives him peace of mind.

"I could tell there's something different with my heart than normally when I'm looking at this; it makes a difference, gives me a sense of confidence as to where I am and what I should do," Cooney said.

Dr. Tarakji admits the technology has had challenges including problems sending results. So he helped develop a cloud-based platform. It allows instant access to a patient's recording and it also makes the system more secure.

This was part of a trial, but it's something we could see available to more people in the future.
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