RVelectricity: A portable ECG that could save your life

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By Mike Sokol

Dear Readers,
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a very interesting portable ECG (or EKG if you’re in Germany) test device called the KardiaMobile 6L, and said that it could possibly save your life. That’s because many of us normally have to wait for a doctor’s orders for an ECG and maybe only have one every year or so. With this portable device device and a smartphone you can take your own ECG every day if you like, compile the results, and send them to your cardiologist for interpretation.

I became interested in this technology last month after my 91-year-old father resisted going into the local medical center for an ECG after feeling a little pressure in his chest recently. Like many of us, he’s not comfortable sitting in a waiting room with a bunch of sick people with the possibility of catching COVID-19. But we did do a Zoom meeting with his cardiologist the next day, who said we could delay an office ECG for a few weeks since all other things looked normal. Anyway, Dad suspected it was due to the big bowl of bean soup he ate the night before which gave him a lot of gas (I kid you not).

So, me being the guy who loves to measure everything, I contacted AliveCor® about their KardiaMobile 6L. I explained to them about the millions of senior RVers who probably should be monitoring their own heart health while they’re hundreds or thousands of miles away from their regular doctor. They agreed and quickly sent me a test unit to experiment with.

I’m now scheduled to speak to one of the KardiaMobile designers and can ask him any technical questions I like. What’s not to love? For a guy like me this is like Christmas and my birthday all wrapped up in one. I’m always excited to learn new things and talk to brilliant minds. (I really regret never getting to meet Carl Sagan)

No bigger than a pack of gum, this little piece of gear performs a vitally important 6-Lead ECG on you in 30 seconds. And there are a number of leading cardiologists on the AliveCor website that say this is the real thing and could be a great tool to help diagnose your heart problems remotely. Read my overview of what this is and how it works in my previous article HERE.

Here’s my actual ECG I took with the KardiaMobile 6L last week. First and foremost, I would like to report that I do have a heartbeat, and according to my own doctor (who ran an ECG on me a few months ago in her office), I’m in perfect heart-health. And while visiting your doctor is very important, I think that being able to gather daily data on your heart can help your doctor look for warning signs that might go unnoticed until your next checkup.

This portable KardiaMobile 6-Lead ECG is amazingly simple to use. After you download the app on your smartphone and set up a few parameters, you just launch the app, choose a 1-Lead or 6-Lead test, place your fingers on the two top contacts, and hold the third contact on your left ankle or knee for the 6-lead test. It then automatically starts recording your 30-second ECG.

I’ve also used the KardiaMobile 6L to take ECGs of my son who had heart surgery a decade ago, as well as my guitar player buddy of 40 years who is monitoring his heart for a potential valve replacement. Plus, I’m testing my 91-year-old father every day, since he did have a mild heart attack 6 months ago.

The beauty of the KardiaMobile 6L is that you can use it to take a 1-Lead ECG of yourself or spouse just by placing two fingers on it. Or to perform a 6-Lead ECG you need to also make contact with the bare skin of your left knee or ankle. As soon as you have a solid connection on all three contacts, the ECG recording on your smartphone begins. The App then asks if this is you (the registered owner that it’s keeping track of) or someone else. You can enter all sorts of other information in a notes section on the same ECG chart, making it very easy to keep everything in one place.

For my dad’s ECG data that I’ve been gathering every day I also include his blood pressure and temperature, and I’m considering getting an O2 sensor as well. All that data can be entered on the ECG chart in the smartphone, which you can then use to generate a password-protected PDF file to email or text to your physician (or whoever else you want to share this with).

The final part of the puzzle is that I’m now contacting the doctors of my various test subjects to see if they can use these daily ECG charts to assist with an online Zoom meeting checkup they can perform quarterly, monthly or even weekly, depending on your particular medical needs. At least one of these doctors thinks this is a billable consult that insurance companies will pay for, and which provides valuable diagnostic data for seniors. That’s important because doctors need to bill for their time, and you really want your insurance company to pay for it.

So, stay tuned for Part 3 in a month or so after I gather enough data and get responses back from the three different cardiologists I’m in contact with. I really do believe that just like electrical safety, heart health is a vitally important thing for each of us, so I’m glad to share all that I’m learning with you. What do you think makes a heart beat anyway? Yep, it fits into the electrical category – just sayin’.

For more information on this amazing technology that could save your life, find out more about the 6L on the AliveCor site HERE. And you can order it on Amazon.com HERE or find it at Best Buy and other technology stores.

So stay tuned and let’s play safe out there….

 

 

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

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John F.
4 months ago

I’ve had the original Kardia for several years. It gives me a lot of insight into the Afib I was experiencing and since I can share the data with my Cardiologist its negated the need for physical visits to his office. I also have an I watch that has a similar feature. Well worth the cost for the peace of mind. Learning how to read the data also gives you insight into what’s going on with your heart.

STEPHEN P Malochleb
5 months ago

Hey Mike, I have been diagnosed with a dilated aorta. talked to my Dr who recommended this item. So I bought one and started using it.. About a month later they changed my blood pressure meds and the problem started. Weird feeling in my chest,erratic heart beat. So i monitored a couple times a day. I would print them out, and when they sent me to a specialist I brought them with me. She was impressed. For a month on the new meds I was getting afib. One really bad day when my heart wouldn’t slow,210 BPM, I went to the ER. I brought along that days ECG’s printouts. When they asked at the desk what was wrong I said I’m in AFIB. She then asked how I knew that. I handed her the printouts and she said,(oh S#IT). I was in a room and hooked up within five minutes and getting meds to slow my heart rate. Long story short, I have proved to my doctors that the meds were causing the problem and have since stopped using that med. I continue to periodically take an ECG just to monitor. My experience is that it works good enough to help diagnose. I may purchase the 6 lead as well for the future. Thanks Steve

Mike Sokol
5 months ago

Everyone should note that the 6-Lead version of the KardiaMobile can also take a 1-Lead ECG if you don’t have access to bare skin on your left knee or ankle. And while I certainly don’t recommend that everyone use this for self-diagnosis, I believe that all doctors should embrace the additional data this device can provide. Knowledge is power….
Note that I’ve talked to a few other RV blogs about covering my articles on this device, and they seemed uninterested because it wasn’t something RV manufacturers or retailers would sell. However, I believe that anything that can help keep you healthy while RVing is vitally important to the RV industry.

Diane Mc
5 months ago

Husband has had one for awhile. Just 1 lead, though. Got it after a viral infection gave him a pulse of 160 & put him into AFIB. We would have gone to ER sooner had we had this. (He’s all good now….but the journey was a nightmare). His cardiologist downplays it because it doesn’t show him a lot. Not meant to replace the doctors. But the fact it can tell you if you are in AFIB is worth it for $99. We also take it when we visit my 91 year old mother to check her out. He doesn’t use all the other features as we aren’t into the data collection part. We also have had a BP machine and record our BP/Pulse at least once a week or so. More for my husband, less for me. Bring with us to doctor appointments. I’m 70 on zero medications with good BP (110/68 on avg). Every time in the doctor’s office my BP is really high (140ish), although they always say good, because I’m old…lol). White coat syndrome, I guess. With my BP & pulse history, doctor can see I’m not having a BP issue. If I didn’t do this, wondering if I’d have been put on meds! Do this for my Mom as well. Doctors all love the info. We also have oximeter so we were all set when the CV showed up. Since it shows pulse as well, just an easy way to check. We have ours sitting out as a reminder.

Mike Sokol
5 months ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

The app can also be set to remind you to take your daily ECG if you like.

Chris
5 months ago

I’m sure the personal data that is freely collected via the app & shared for profit to 3rd parties will never be used by employers for hiring purposes or insurance companies for policy determinations or by significant others for dating purposes.

Betty
5 months ago

Interesting timing. I was just saying to my husband and father-in-law a few days ago that there would be more phone apps that would help doctors diagnose remotely. My husband just had a heart valve replaced and my father-in-law has multiple heart issues. Both RV. I, too, have a heart issue. While this will not replace the 12-lead ecg, it looks to be a darn good addition to the telephone/video visit. Both of the above relatives expressed dislike of the remote visit, but this would be a god send for a full timer. Think, you could access your own MD from where ever and have a consistency of care instead of the disjointed care my in-laws get traveling from Florida to PA and back every year. My husband has a “face-to-face” visit next week with a cardiologist I’ve known for over 15 years professionally (I’m an RN) and personally. I can’t wait to show him this.

Mike Sokol
5 months ago
Reply to  Betty

I think that being able to take your ECG weekly or even daily will go a long way towards better diagnostics and treatment. Heck, until I received a KardiaMobile 6L I’ve only had an ECG once every 10 years. Now I’m building up historic ECG data that should allow for trend analysis by a cardiologist. And that’s what could save your life someday.

Wolfe
5 months ago

I am following this discussion closely… I’m slightly skeptical of this device taking a “good enough” EKG compared to the dangling-wires variety, but if this device works it really IS a lifesaver for many of us… I monitor my BP, O2, and pulse pretty regularly, but those won’t indicate the issues with my heart until it’s gotten emergent. “Your” device is going on my buy-list once you confirm it works as more than a toy.

BTW: Many people already know this, but for folks that don’t, there are plenty of smart watches that will (accurately!) monitor your SpO2/pulse throughout the day [sensor is passively on the back of the watch]– $15 for a less-than-pretty plastic version, but there are more handsome versions that look like traditional watches. Mine claims to also read BP and a 1-lead EKG, but both of those functions are really dubious [lies!] compared to my “real” sphygmometer and doctor’s EKG.

For yourself, Mike, a nice fingertip SpO2 with graphing et al is only $7 right now… I’d DEFINITELY get one as it’s been a critical measure when we’ve been “sick” — my wife’s O2 falling below 80 was the only thing that got her [lazy? incompetent? deadly?] doctor to finally quit writing her off as ‘just having a cold.’

Chris Crosswhite
5 months ago

After reading your first article, I used the link and ordered one of these. I had a heart attack a little less than 2 years ago, and it seems like a prudent idea.

The device came quickly and seemed exactly as you described. I say ‘seemed’ because I didn’t have one of the phones clearly specified; I have a Nexus 5X and it connects to the unit but doesn’t record an EKG.

So, be aware that you need one of the specific set of phones for this to work.

In my case, I plan to check with my kids to see if they have a phone that works. Then, I’ll order one of those phones (I don’t know if it needs to be an activated cellphone or not.)

Thanks for this series of articles!

Wolfe
5 months ago

Interesting… I didn’t catch you needed a certain cellphone for it to work. I wonder why that is? It may have to support Bluetooth-LowE or something, but *almost* all do now…

Mike Sokol
5 months ago

I’m pretty sure that a used iPhone without cellular connection would work just fine as long as you’re on a WIFI connection when you want to email a PDF of your ECG to your doctors’ office. I do this sort of thing all the time with my previous phones. They don’t even need to have a great battery in an old phone since you could leave the phone plugged into a wall charger.