Innovative app launched to record rhythm and activity of the heart

Ulster University’s leadership in technology development within healthcare continues with the announcement of an innovative new smartphone app, developed by a lecturer at the University, which helps to improve clinical training and reduce risk of misdiagnosis and subsequent fatalities worldwide.

The ANALYSE ECG Reporting app, developed by Cathal Breen, Lecturer in Clinical Physiology in the School of Health Sciences at Ulster University, has been created to assist with the correct interpretation of electrocardiogram - or ECG – reports, which record the rhythm and electrical activity of the heart.

The app, a clinical decision support tool, guides users through ECG analysis using a systematic, user-friendly format; helping to overcome diagnostic ambiguity and ensure a more accurate reading and interpretation.

Approximately 300 million ECG’s are performed each year across the globe. The test requires the placement of 10 electrodes on to anatomically specific locations on a person’s chest, wrists and ankles and the connection of these electrodes to 12 ECG recording leads. The ECG machine collects the recordings from the heart beat and provides a graphical print out for clinicians to interpret.

Despite its widespread use, several studies have highlighted deficiencies in ECG interpretation skills among health professionals due to the complexity of the readings. Studies indicate that up to 33% of ECG interpretations have some error when compared to the expert reference, and up to 11% can result in inappropriate treatment and management of ailments or even patient fatality.

Dr Breen’s app currently has over 10,000 downloads worldwide and is used in educational institutions in Ireland, UK, Europe, USA, Canada, the Philippines and Pakistan.

Commenting on his research, lecturer and author, Dr Cathal Breen said:

The research that led to the ANALYSE ECG reporting smartphone app originated from the lack of evidence-based methods for teaching and reporting ECG findings, even though the 12-lead ECG is currently one of the most widely used investigations in healthcare. This study was carried out in the Institute of Nursing and Health Research at Ulster University.

The overall goal of performing an ECG is to obtain information about the heartbeat, diagnosing cardiac conditions from heart attacks to rhythm irregularities. Interpreting recordings is complex and clinically challenging, with misinterpretation having the potential to result in patient fatality.

I developed the ANALYSE app to enable competent ECG interpretation and enhance the diagnostic performance in novices in particular. It is gratifying to know this local innovation has a direct and tangible impact on diagnosis and treatment and is improving patient outcomes.

The app follows the announcement of the new €8.2m Eastern Corridor Medical Engineering Centre (ECME), launched at Ulster University in January, set to develop smart cardiovascular wearable devices. The cross-border centre, which covers Northern Ireland, the border region of Ireland and Western Scotland, aims to transform cardiac care in the region by developing new models of care, smart wearable technologies and improved patient monitoring systems.

The ANALYSE ECG Reporting app is available for download on Android and iPhone.