Pocket Health Sensors

Posted on September 5, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’ve long talked about the explosion of wearable sensors that’s happening in the market. The number is amazing. Now I’m just waiting for them to go a little deeper as far as what they can offer that’s clinically relevant. That said, I’m also impressed with how small these sensors are becoming. They can easily fit in your pocket or purse with no problem.

An example of this movement is the ECG that was recently sent to me by SnapECG. They have a wide variety of ECG sensors, but they sent me the SnapECG Handheld ECG Recorder (Available on eBay and Amazon). I have to admit that receiving it was a bit underwhelming. It was so simple to use that it didn’t need much information. That said, it would have been nice to have a little card that said basically that there was nothing for me to do other than download the app on my smartphone and get started.

Regardless it was super easy to unpackage it, download the app and pair it with my smartphone. No doubt I’m a more advanced user and so a few more prompts on the mobile app might be a good idea, but all in all, it was amazing how simple it was to start using the sensor. Plus, there’s something calming about watching the ECG being recorded (maybe they should pair it with a mindfulness app).

After doing the reading, the next challenge was figuring out what to do with the data. There’s an option on the app that says “Professional Advice” but it required a login and so I didn’t want to go that direction. Plus, how did I know the quality of the professional advice? As someone active on social media, I decided to share my report on Twitter and ask my community what else I should do with the reading. The amazing part was how simple it was for me to share that report on social media. It made me really wish that sharing the report with my doctor was that easy…but I digress.

Along with some great snarky replies, I also learned about the difference between a single lead ECG and one that would be used in a doctors office. I even had a doctor reply with the following:


The doctor went on to share that it can measure resting heart rate, target exercise heart rate, and rhythm regular/irregular. Although, he did make clear that the key is for the data to come from a wearable that produced accurate data.

I was aware of this possible issue, but I wonder how many consumers wouldn’t think twice about how accurate the readings from the wearable were for them. I can hear someone reasoning that they bought it at BestBuy or Amazon and so they must have vetted the quality of the reading, right? I’m sure some of you are laughing, but I’m quite sure this is how much research many people do on the accuracy of their wearable devices. I instead look for the FDA clearance which SnapECG has said they’re working on and they’re planning to have it cleared in the middle of September.

The SnapECG was originally launched in China and now they’re bringing it to the US. I’ll admit I’m not that familiar with the Chinese medical device world, but the device has been awarded CE certification (EU) and China’s CFDA certification. A lesson that many chinese companies learn is that those don’t really seem to carry much weight to those of us in the US.

In fact, it should come as no surprise that many people in the US will be skeptical of wearables coming from China and other overseas countries. The smartest thing a company like SnapECG can do is to partner with a trusted US brand like the Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic. Most people in the US will trust something that has been vetted by those organizations who are extremely protective of their brands. Plus, it’s easy to see why their “Professional Advice” app feature would carry a lot more weight if that advice was tied to a well known US healthcare organization than a basically anonymous one with Chinese ties.

At the end of the day, the real question for all of these wearables is what value can you provide the patient and how quickly can you provide that value? Plus, will patients understand the value that a single lead ECG can provide them? And will they understand the limitations of what it can and can’t tell you? This is why the software that comes paired with the device is so important. Plus, as these devices become more and more clinically relevant, you’re going to want that data available to a care provider you trust as well.

Yes, I understand some of the challenges of over monitoring and how that can lead to false positives and unnecessary care that has a wide variety of bad consequences. However, over time I believe we’re going to have the right mix of devices, data analytics, and software that will effectively analyze wearable device data and make it actionable and useful to you as a patient and to your doctor. We’re not there yet, but it’s amazing to see how things continue to evolve even since AliveCor offered the first single lead ECG for mobile devices. It still feels like we’re just getting started and none of us can even imagine what we’ll have 10 years from now.