Project Summary

Design and Evaluation of a Cell-Phone Compatible Wireless Electrocardiograph

For patients in developing countries or remote areas, there are often few available options for access to quality local healthcare. Hospitals can be miles away, and studies show that patients often avoid even available local clinics due to concerns about the quality of care. However, the widespread availability of cell-phones even in otherwise impoverished areas provides a key platform for device development; the local availability and widespread adoption of cell-phones in developing areas means that cell-phone compatible devices can easily integrate with available technology, allowing for remote medical examination.

One widespread technique for monitoring and diagnosis of cardiac disorders is the electrocardiograph (EKG), a measure of minute transthoracic voltage fluctuations due to heart muscle depolarization that requires amplification of the cardiac electrical signal for display. The purpose of this study was to design and evaluate a cell-phone compatible, Bluetooth-enabled EKG (electrocardiograph) prototype capable of transmitting an EKG image for remote examination to determine prototype feasibility as a method for remote cardiac examination. electrocardiograph, a graphical display of minute transthoracic voltage fluctuations due to heart muscle depolarization, requires amplification of the electrical signal and then a method of display.

        Device construction involved creation of two separate components, a Bluetooth-enabled wireless transmitter with a microprocessor programmed to read the EKG output for display on the cell-phone, and instrumentation amplification circuitry to amplify cardiac electrical activity. Four circuitry prototypes were designed and constructed; successive prototypes were intended to reduce the cost, size, and number of external components in the circuit while preserving the EKG signal. All circuitry output analog voltage signals to a central wireless transmitter, a Bluetooth-enabled microprocessor board that constantly sampled the EKG signal and sent it to a cell-phone for processing and display. The cell-phone showed a real-time, dynamic EKG display, but allowed for screen-capture of static images so even patients in impoverished areas with phones lacking video-transmission capability could still send the image in a photo SMS to a remotely-located doctor for diagnosis.
    The final cell-phone compatible wireless EKG prototypes successfully demonstrates that  remote cardiac EKG transmission over cellular networks is possibleallowing for three-lead EKG images using multiple electrode placements to be saved and stored. Unlike existing devices, this one successfully transmits and displays storable images without Internet or external computers, meaning it can be implemented in impoverished areas that lack the funding or Internet access to use other telemedicine systems. It provides a cost-effective alternative to traditional, non-portable EKG devices and telemedical systems, with low initial equipment requirements and flexibility for integration with digitized healthcare systems.
          The success of the prototypes suggests that future work could significantly and easily reduce the size of the device, while minimizing electrical interference and greatly increasing the stability of EKG output, through full integration of all components onto a single integrated circuit chip. When combined with my previously developed device, a cell-phone compatible wireless stethoscope, the EKG prototype allows for multi-faceted care integrating real-time audio and images for remote digitized care over the cellular network.