Electronic healthcare

A Bluetooth-based heart monitor system could text your local hospital if you are about to have a heart attack.


The system, developed by Thulasi Bai and S.K. Srivatsa of the Sathyabama University in Tamil Nadu, measures electrical signals from the heart, analyses them to produce an electrocardiogram (ECG) and then sends an alert together with the ECG by cell phone text message.


Cardiovascular disease kills almost 20 million people each year, with around 22 million people at risk of sudden heart failure at any one time around the world. Lives can often be saved if acute care and cardiac surgery are carried out within a so-called ‘golden hour’.


Although survival rates are on the increase as treatments improve, this means there are more and more patients whose cardiac health has to be monitored so that follow-up treatment can be given if problems arise.


Available methods of heart monitoring usually restrict the mobility of patients to a hospital or a single room. But the new wearable cardiac telemedicine system would allow post-cardiac patients renewed mobility.


According to Inderscience’s International Journal of Electronic Healthcare, the prototype Bluetooth heart monitor periodically records an electrocardiogram (ECG) and transmits the information via radio frequency signals to the patient’s cell phone. The modified phone has an added analyser circuit that checks the ECG signal for signs of imminent cardiac failure. If signals, such as any arrhythmia, are detected, the cell phone alerts the patient and transmits a sample of the ECG signal to the nearest medical care centre, via the SMS text service, together with patient details.


The device could give patients who have already had one heart attack a much greater chance of receiving life-saving treatment within the golden hour period.


‘Our wearable cardiac telemedicine system can help the mobility of patients, so they can regain their independence and return to an active social life or work schedule,’ explained Bai, ‘thereby improving their psychological well-being and quality of life.’


The researchers are now working on how to enable a global-positioning system in the modified cell phone, so that a medical centre can quickly pinpoint a patient too. They also hope to improve the level of detail that can be sent from the cell phone to the emergency room using Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) as opposed to the SMS text messaging system.