Mobile Health Apps Fuel Global Research

By JAMIE LEE, Modern Healthcare, March 23, 2013

In what could turn out to be one of the largest ever population health investigations, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco plan to enroll 1 million people with smartphones in a worldwide cardiovascular study aimed at improving heart health.

The researchers are betting that medical app-armed smartphones will help them determine not only the causes of heart disease in particular demographic subgroups, but more quickly diagnose and treat heart disease in specific patients.

The project is essentially a worldwide expansion of the Framingham Heart Study, which tracked about 5,200 people living in Framingham, Mass., starting in the 1940s to determine the causes of heart disease. The Framingham research famously linked cigarettes to an elevated risk of heart disease and reported that high blood pressure increased the risk of stroke and obesity in addition to being a risk factor for heart failure.

“The Framingham model tracked participants in one city,” Dr. Jeffrey Olgin, chief of cardiology at UCSF, said in a news release. “Imagine that model on a global scale and taking the collected data to treat heart patients so precisely that we can account for their gender, age, ethnicity and lifestyle factors.”

As part of the new study, participants will use smartphones and mobile apps to track their heart rate, blood pressure and pulse rate. That information will then be transmitted to researchers.

One app that the study plans to use allows patients to record their heart rate by holding a finger over the camera for about 40 seconds. Another app lets a patient take his or her own ECG.

“We hope to be able to collect copious amounts of data on a large segment of the population so we can develop robust and accurate models to predict the occurrence of heart disease in people who don’t yet have it, or slow the progression in people who already have heart disease,” Olgin said in the release.

Olgin and the study’s other researchers were not available for interviews.

Clinicians increasingly use smartphones and mobile applications to gather data, monitor a patient’s health, and improve clinical outcomes in some instances.

An estimated 40,000 health and wellness mobile apps are on the market today. About 7,000 of those apps are intended for use by clinicians and healthcare professionals, and roughly 500 new mobile health apps launch every month, according to information provided by a Qualcomm executive during a congressional hearing last week.

Mobile health experts often cite cardiovascular disease and diabetes as two therapeutic categories likely to benefit from utilization of mobile technology.

Read more: Heart study to enroll 1 million smartphone users worldwide | Modern Healthcare

About Concierge Medicine Journal

Concierge Medicine Journal (CMJ) curates breaking concierge medicine news, and editorial opinion on a wide variety of topics relevant to the practice of Concierge Medicine.

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