A recent mHealth program conducted in Belgium enabled more than 60,000 people to use their smartphones to track their heart rhythm for evidence of AF. The two-week program identified roughly 800 people with the life-threatening condition.
A novel mHealth project conducted last year in Belgium saw more than 60,000 people screened for atrial fibrillation through their smartphones – and almost 800 identified as having AF symptoms.
In what is being billed as one of the largest population health screening programs ever attempted, the two-week program, led by researchers at Hasselt University in Belgium, invited participants to download an mHealth app through a QR code advertised throughout the country. More than 62,800 people downloaded the app, and were instructed to measure their heart rhythm at least twice daily for eight days.
Each measurement was classified as regular rhythm, possible AF, irregular rhythm or insufficient quality, with each irregular measurement analyzed by medical technicians under supervision of cardiologists. Of the 61,730 people who completed the program, 791, or 1.3 percent, recorded heart rhythms indicative of AF.
And 72 percent of that group, researchers said, hadn’t experienced AF symptoms before.
The app, FibriCheck, uses pulse-plethysmography (PPG), which tracks heart rhythm through a smartphone’s camera.
“It’s fascinating to see the impact that PPG technology is having on clinical practice,” Tine Proesmans, MASc, of Hasselt University’s Mobile Health Unit, said in a press release. “Using digital tools in a very structured way enables us to outpace any other traditional methodology to screen or prescreen patients and guide them into an appropriate care pathway.”
Proesmans, lead author of the DIGITAL-AF clinical trial, presented the study at the recent Heart Rhythm 2019, the Heart Rhythm Society’s 40th annual Scientific Sessions, in San Francisco.
“Using digital technology only, we were able to reach a large population very quickly and collect clinically meaningful and actionable data, without the need for medical infrastructure,” she said. “Patients also benefit by having the flexibility to take measurements anytime, anywhere, and at a fraction of the cost.”
The project is the latest digital health intervention aimed at identifying people with AF, which affects more than 33.5 million annually around the globe, and improving care management outside the doctor’s office or hospital. Through mobile health technology that includes smartphones, smartwatches and other wearables with embedded sensors, care providers are looking for reliable platforms that can measure and track one’s heart rhythm.
The value in this particular program lies in that it involves a large population, using an easy and readily available digital health platform to gather and transmit data to care providers.
Proesmans and her colleagues plan to follow up with questionnaires for phase two of the program, during which they’ll analyze the decision-making process that goes into following up with those who showed signs of having AF. They also hope to expand the program outside of Belgium
Date: May 17, 2019