Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

AliveCor uses remote medicine to provide critical heart rhythm testing to COVID-19 patients

A Bluetooth device the size of a stick of chewing gum can detect early signs of deadly heart arrhythmia which can be a side effect from the use of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin medications in COVID-19 patients.

AliveCor, the pioneer manufacturer of mobile ECG devices, announced on Monday that it would be offering a remote diagnostic service using ECGs taken from their KardiaMobile 6L device for COVID-19 patients.

The new diagnostic service is intended for those patients who are undergoing treatment with medications such as Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin -- a drug cocktail regimen that has been highly controversial due to its unproven therapeutic benefit and potentially deadly side effects.

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The KardiaMobile 6L

Image: AliveCor

The devices, which are the size of a stick of gum and are paired via Bluetooth to an iPhone or an Android device, have been used in the consumer and medical practitioner space to detect atrial fibrillation (Afib) as well as other potentially deadly heart rhythm events.

Unlike other ECG products on the market, such as the Apple Watch, which can only process a single lead (strip) of heart rhythm data, the $150 KardiaMobile 6L has three electrodes and can read six leads of data. A much larger clinical ECG used in a hospital or doctor's office can record up to 12 leads of data but is far more cumbersome to set up for ad-hoc testing. 

The KardiaMobile 6L can take a six-lead reading in 30 seconds, with no setup whatsoever. In essence, it is simply held in the patient's hands, touching the first two electrodes with each thumb, and the third electrode on the device is contacted against another part of their body, such as the lower part of the leg. The readings are then stored in AliveCor's physician cloud, where the data can be assessed directly by the patient's medical practitioner.

These additional electrodes on the KardiaMobile 6L allow for much more information-dense data collection and analysis -- in this case, the second lead of data is used when measuring COVID-19 patients' QT interval when they have been administered this controversial drug cocktail.

The QTc interval for this use case is particularly important because a prolonged QTc rhythm can lead to a fatal side effect called drug-induced sudden cardiac death (DI-SCD). By having quick diagnoses of the QTc, it can be determined by the medical practitioner to discontinue the use of these medications early before side effects become more serious.

While the basic Afib detection functions of the KardiaMobile 6L are performed on the connected mobile device itself (iPhone or Android) this particular diagnostic for the QTc utilizes remote medicine to transfer the digital strip sheet for the second lead of data to a nationally-known independent diagnostic testing facility, where QTc values are determined and rapidly returned to front-line care providers.

KardiaMobile's clinician platform can return QTc diagnostic results from the remote facility in less than an hour.