Health IT

Beta tester did diagnosis on the fly with AliveCor iPhone heart monitor

I’m sad. Gone is the novelty of having magic in my IPhone. For over a year, I was special. As a beta-tester, I could show you your heart rhythm on my IPhone.

The AliveCor iPhone ECG passed muster with the FDA Monday. It gained clearance to be sold to medical providers.

I first reported this story on DrJohnM in January 2011.


In a paragraph, the AliveCor device enables an IPhone to record one’s actual cardiac rhythm. It is a one-lead rhythm strip done in real-time. The easiest way to record the rhythm is to lightly hold the electrodes on the case. A magic app on your phone displays the rhythm over a programmable length of time. It then stores the rhythm and allows it to be sent to a cloud, where it can be analyzed by a qualified person.

I’ll keep this post brief. Others have weighed in with more details.

Reed Miller covered the story on

MobiHealthNews has this excellent recap.

Influential cardiologist Eric Topol discuss it in this video on

Here are just two of my ‘beta’ stories:

I’m at a gathering of cyclists. A middle-aged guy comes up to me and says he hasn’t felt well in about a week. He has no power on the bike; his breathing is labored. Something is amiss, he says.

I think, hey, let’s check him with the IPhone.

Here it is:

Atrial fib on IPhone ECG

Amazing, I just made a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation with a dang phone! That, my friends, made me look really smart.

Another story: a staff member at the hospital has palpitations. The IPhone ECG comes through again. “Here,” I said, “hold my phone for a second.” The dx: benign-appearing PVCs. Based on my IPhone diagnosis, he went to his highly enlightened primary care doctor who recommended more rest, less ‘bad’ food and regular exercise. Voila…the pesky PVCs improved.

This is amazing technology. The AliveCor device allows an accurate diagnosis of a cardiac arrhythmia, or thinking optimistically, it might show a normal rhythm. It does so without a fuss. It empowers patients to have a beat on their heart rhythm, literally at their fingertips. The simplicity is shocking.

In my practice of AFib-ology, the situation of correlating what rhythm is going on at the time of symptoms comes up frequently. Right now, for monitoring of the cardiac rhythm, a patient has to drive to the doctor’s office, park, walk in, check in, fill out forms, sign forms, get a wristband, wait, wear wires for a day or a month, bring back the monitor, wait for it to be analyzed and then…what if during that time of monitoring the symptoms did not occur? (Is that a metaphor for US healthcare or what?)

With the nifty AliveCor device, a patient can easily use a smartphone to record their rhythm. Then, they could save it to review later, text it, or email it. And they can do so when they are feeling unwell or well.

Sure there are headwinds. Who’s going to pay for it—patients or insurance companies? How many patients will invest ‘their’ money for a medical device? That’s not the normal pattern. Medical stuff is supposed to be free. Plus, who will interpret the strips? We should not expect doctors to read these images and discuss with their patients for free.

New and disruptive technology always raises lots of questions.

Right now the AliveCor monitor won’t be available to patients. Only doctors will be able to buy it. The next step will probably be for patients to get access to the device with a prescription. And then, ultimately, it may become available at your local electronics store as a nifty IPhone case. (For the record, it’s a great case.)

This is progress.

Congrats to innovator Dr Dave Albert. (@DrDave01)


Related posts:

  1. An Iphone ECG monitor–Amazing
  2. Heart rhythm doctors on the limit…
  3. Heading to the Heart Rhythm Society Meeting–Boston

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