Dr. Charles Worringham

Mini ECG Helps Heart Rehab Patients Become Mobile

June 24, 2008
by Lynn Shapiro, Writer
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) scientists have hooked a mobile phone to a miniature heart monitor and a GPS device in research aimed at tackling 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-based company, Alive Technologies, was being further developed.

"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.

He adds, "We are trying this approach because 80 percent of cardiac patients never complete recommended hospital outpatient rehabilitation programs, despite the fact that rehab programs cut recurrent heart attacks by 17 percent, substantially reduce deaths, prevent re-hospitalization and improve both function and quality of life."

It's not because these patients don't want to take part, it's usually because they cannot get to the hospital program easily, because there simply isn't one nearby, or because work or family commitments take priority, Dr. Worringham says.

Singer and songwriter Alan McPherson was one of the first to try the system. "Mr. McPherson was able to do his rehabilitation sessions while on tour from Queensland to Victoria, knowing he was being properly monitored," Dr. Worringham said.

To use the "Cardiomobile," patients must attach a mini ECG to their chests and wear a cap with a lightweight GPS receiver connected to a mobile phone via a Bluetooth.

Patients phone in at the start of their scheduled session and then their heart signal, location, speed and gradient are monitored in real-time over the web by an exercise scientists, who guide patients' programs and checks their progress.

If there is any problem with the heart signal, researchers can immediately contact the patient and consult with a cardiologist.

Dr. Worringham said that people who benefit from the Cardiomobile system are those patients who either would not exercise at all without it, or would have to go it alone, something many lack the confidence for after heart attacks and surgery.

"If this approach works, it could go a long way towards assisting the recovery of heart patients not reached by conventional rehabilitation and help to cut the number of re-admissions to hospital," Dr. Worringham said.