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UBMD doctors offer smartphone device to monitor heart patients

Doctors affiliated with the University at Buffalo gave the opening of their offices on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus a high-tech aura Monday by also introducing a smartphone device they just started using to monitor patients' hearts.

AliveCor's Kardia Pro, which is smaller than a credit card, allows doctors to remotely monitor patients for irregular heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation. Patients who feel heart palpitations can place their fingers on the device's two small pads, and it takes an electrocardiogram in about 30 seconds, with the results shown on screen and transmitted to a doctor via the software in the smartphone app.

UBMD Internal Medicine's 10 cardiologists began recommending the device to patients this month as an alternative to more cumbersome monitors that must be worn with electrodes that attach to the skin.

Kardia Pro represents one of a number of emerging portable devices that monitor the heart for potentially dangerous irregularities.

"It's convenient and not obtrusive to patients, and they can keep it for months," said Dr. Anne B. Curtis, president and chief executive officer of UBMD Internal Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine at the UB Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

UBMD, which formed in 2005, is the umbrella organization for 18 separate medical specialty practices whose more than 500 doctors are affiliated with the UB medical school. The group also includes 1,200 other health professionals and staff. Twelve of its medical practices are moving into the Conventus building at 1001 Main St., including dermatology, family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, neurosurgery, obstetrics-gynecology, orthopaedics and sports medicine, pathology, pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery and urology.

The device has been approved by the Food And Drug Administration. Patients buy the Kardia device – its costs $99 online from the company – and pay a $15 monthly fee for continuous monitoring.

The device is aimed at such uses as confirming atrial fibrillation in patients who complain of worrisome heart palpitations. Atrial fibrillation can lead to blood clots, stroke and other heart complications. About 2.7 million Americans live with the condition, which is often treated with medication, according to the American Heart Association. Another potential use is to monitor patients after a treatment for irregular heart rhythms known as ablation, in which a doctor eliminates malfunctioning tissue around the heart.

The AliveCor smartphone app provided comparable performance to the 14-day event monitors that are the current standard of care, according to a UB study presented last year at the annual Heart Rhythm Society meeting. The two-week study of 32 patients who had experienced symptoms of cardiac arrhythmias compared both methods to record palpitations. The UB researchers, including Curtis, found that the AliveCor system correctly recorded 91 percent of total arrhythmic events experienced by patients versus 87.5 percent recorded by the event monitors.

"One of the other benefits of the app is that it allows people to take more ownership of their health," Curtis said. "That is good for other aspects of their care."

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