Australian scientists have teamed a mobile phone with a miniature heart monitor and a GPS device to tackle the low participation rates of heart patients in cardiac rehabilitation.
Dr Charles Worringham of Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation said the unique ‘Cardiomobile’ monitoring system, developed by Gold Coast company Alive Technologies, was being further developed and trialled together with QUT under an ARC Linkage Grant.
‘The program allows people who have been in hospital for a heart attack or heart surgery to undergo a six-week walking exercise rehabilitation program wherever it’s convenient, while having their heart signal, location and speed monitored in real time,’ Dr Worringham said.
‘We are trying this approach because 80 per cent of cardiac patients never complete recommended hospital outpatient rehabilitation programs, despite the fact that they cut recurrent heart attacks by 17 per cent, substantially reduce deaths, prevent re-hospitalisation, and improve both function and quality of life.’
Usually, such patients do not complete the programs because they cannot get to the hospital easily, because there isn’t one nearby, or because work or family commitments take priority.
To use the Cardiomobile system, a patient must attach a mini ECG (electrocardiogram or heart signal) monitor to their chests and wear a cap with a lightweight GPS receiver, both of which are connected to a mobile phone via Bluetooth.
‘Patients phone in and then their heart signal, location, speed and gradient are monitored in real-time over the web by a qualified scientist who checks their progress,’ Dr Worringham said.
‘If there is any problem with the heart signal, we can immediately contact the patient and consult with a cardiologist if needed,’ he added.
‘Although serious problems in cardiac rehab are very rare, if there is an emergency we can direct the paramedics to the exact location without delay. While this approach is different from a hospital-based program, we are talking about a group of patients who either wouldn’t exercise at all or would have to go it alone – something many lack the confidence for after heart attacks and surgery.’
If the approach works, not only could it help heart patients to recover, but also cut the number of avoidable re-admissions to hospital.