AFib or atrial fibrillation is something that affects some 6 million people in the U.S., an irregular heartbeat that can create blood clots that could cause a stroke. AFib is more common the older we get, and often it is not noticed, unless a physician happens to check your heart with an electrocardiogram, an EKG (or ECG as my cardiologist insists it should be called), while the irregular rhythm is present.
We wrote recently about an Apple/Stanford study to determine if the sensors on an Apple Watch are able to successfully detect AFib as it’s happening, and if so, will the Food & Drug Administration designate the app as a medical device. Those results are at least a year away.
But right now, you can take your own EKG (sorry Dr. H.) with one of two FDA-cleared devices from Alivecor. One requires an Apple Watch and an iPhone, but the other uses an app that will connect not only with an iPhone but with many Android phones as well.
KardiaMobile is what it’s called, and what you get is a small plastic strip, about 3 inches long and a little over an inch wide, with two metal “pads” on it, and a battery inserted in the back. You download the Kardia app, register – and they want your name, email, age, height, gender and whether you’re a smoker – and then touch the screen to “Record your EKG.”
With that, you need to press fingers of each hand on the pads, and the app takes a “single lead” EKG. Now the first one you will not see immediately because Alivecor is required to send the reading to a cardiologist for a first analysis. You’ll be emailed that report within a day or so, and it might recommend you visit a cardiologist in person for a fuller workup.
But readings you take after that you can see, and the app will tell you if they were normal, possible AFib, or not able to be read. You do have the option of emailing a PDF of the tracing to yourself or a physician. Your doctor may also sign up for a patient care plan to get regular reports and notifications.
Does KardiaMobile work? Well, yes, at least for me (and my wife as a permitted “guest” user) it showed our current normal rhythms easily. You have to keep your phone near the pads, with no other phone or electrical noise producing appliance nearby. The app will tell you if there’s a signal problem.
KardiaMobile is $99 direct with free shipping but in a change of policy last year, you need to pay $9.99 a month, or $99 annually, for a “premium membership” which will allow you to see and send previous EKG readings from your phone, as well as provide reports for your doctor. The device comes with a 30-day free trial of the premium service. Without “premium” you can see and mail one reading at a time, not your history.
You can also get a stick-on clip for the back of your phone to hold the KardiaMobile pad, or a “CarryPod” to keep it with your keys.
As I mentioned, there’s also a Kardia device that works only with an Apple Watch & iPhone, that’s the KardiaBand for $199 (plus the premium membership) which has the sensor pad on the watchband and an app for the phone. It works the same as the other device, but because the Apple Watch can monitor your activity and heart rate, the KardiaBand can also notify you to take an EKG if it notices something unexpected.
Here’s their video about the KardiaMobile: