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mHealth Technology Speeds Cardiac Diagnoses

GW Researchers Find that Expert Interpretation of Echocardiograms on a Smartphone Improves Access without Compromising Accuracy

WASHINGTON (May 9, 2011) — Handheld ultrasound from new pocket-sized devices now allows cardiac imaging to be performed in locations previously inaccessible to traditional ultrasound. GW researchers have shown that high quality ultrasound heart images can be acquired in a remote setting and transmitted via the internet, through a secure network, to a cardiologist's smartphone for assessment. Furthermore, the GW team has demonstrated that the interpretation of images when viewed on a cell phone are equivalent to those when displayed on a dedicated echocardiography workstation.

“Assuring that interpreting images using a smartphone is safe and effective is a big step toward making handheld devices and smartphones a new means to make accurate, clinical diagnoses,” said Dr. Brian Choi. “Delivering quality, swift care to patients, where ever they might be located, is critical.”

Researchers at GW tested this technology using images from 89 patients located in a remote, mountainous Honduran village. GW doctors on-site performed echocardiograms using a handheld cardiac ultrasound device and sent the images for verification to two expert echocardiographers in the United States, who reviewed them on conventional workstations. The images were also sent to a smartphone and interpreted using a dedicated, HIPAA-compliant application. The point-of-care diagnosis when interpreted on the smartphone was considered accurate if any abnormal finding was matched and categorized at the same level of severity as the interpretation by the conventional workstation.

“As a leader in mobile health or mHealth, GW is finding news ways to facilitate the use of current technology so that it can enhance the practice of medicine,” said Dr. Richard Katz, Director, Division of Cardiology, GW School of Medicine and Health Science.

This research was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session held April 2-5.