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heart rhythms

Move over Holter? Heart Monitoring in the mHealth Era

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins

Man wearing a blue patch on his chest, another man wearing 5 patches and a monitor around his neck.

Caption: New patch (left) and traditional Holter (right) for monitoring heart rhythms
Credit: iRhythm Technologies (left); Misscurry,Wikimedia Commons (right)

There are thousands of “wellness” apps for smart phones and other mobile devices that will help you count calories, calculate your BMI, monitor your meds, boost your fitness routine, or quit smoking. These are now commonly referred to as “mHealth,” where the “m” stands for mobile technology. While these gadgets may encourage a healthier lifestyle, few of them have been tested rigorously for improved health outcomes over time, and they won’t necessarily keep you out of the ER.

Some of the most dramatic leaps in mHealth will arise when we have small, inexpensive wireless devices with sensors that can monitor your physiology—heart rate, blood pressure, blood sodium and glucose levels, breathing patterns, brain waves, and so on—and then transmit those data to your physician, who can then take actions that may spare you a trip to the hospital or even save your life.