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Q&A: What is the Preventicus Heartbeats app?

The Preventicus Heartbeats app is a mobile phone app for detecting atrial fibrillation (AF) and other abnormal cardiac rhythms with a smartphone camera, and it has ECG-comparable accuracy. The app has been evaluated in independent clinical trials at leading medical centres in the UK, Switzerland and Germany

What is AF?

One of the most common heart rhythm disorders, AF is a major cause of strokes. Lifetime risk for AF is one in four. A quarter of people with AF have a stroke within five years and 5 per cent within one year if the condition is left untreated. People with high blood pressure, angina, diabetes or who are 55 plus are also at increased risk of AF. Up to a fifth of all heart attack patients develop AF. There is effective treatment for diagnosed AF.

What are the signs and symptoms of AF? 

Fifty per cent of people with AF do not feel anything. Other people may experience a sometimes fast, irregular heartbeat and occasional palpitations. Other symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath and tiredness.

So AF is easily recognised and diagnosed?

Not at all. Many people with mostly occasional AF are totally unaware of it.

How does AF cause strokes?

AF and the subsequential irregular blood flow in the heart are the strongest risk factors to the formation of dangerous blood clots; blood clots going from the heart to the brain cause strokes.

But won’t an ECG detect AF?

AF and other cardiac rhythm disorders often occur sporadically and without symptoms, so they are not always detected in the doctor’s surgery. AF is only detected in a quarter, at maximum, of all affected patients with a conventional 24-hour ECG.

The app will generate an ECG-comparable pdf report for you and your doctor

How does this compare with the Preventicus Heartbeats app?

Clinical studies have shown that the app can distinguish normal from abnormal heart rhythms such as AF with an accuracy of 95 per cent and higher.

What are my options with the Preventicus Heartbeats app?

Try the one-minute free version or test the full version for free for 30 minutes before deciding to migrate to the paid-for version which costs £4.99 a month or £23.99 a year.

How does it work?

The critical bit involves placing your smartphone camera lens over your finger. The app then records all heartbeats. When more than 5 per cent of all beats are extra beats, the app signals the suspicion of arrhythmia with a yellow traffic light symbol. A red traffic light indicates a possibly significant absolute arrhythmia suspicious to AF. Pulse rates that are consistently too high (tachycardia) or too low (bradycardia) are also recorded. The app will generate an ECG-comparable pdf report for you and your doctor. You can also book telecare services to obtain detailed notes. Telecare service for a single suspicious measurement costs £29.99; for up to five suspicious measurements, a one-time purchase is £36.99.

How often would I need to monitor myself with the Preventicus Heartbeats app?

For at least two weeks, possibly four weeks; in the morning, the evening and whenever palpitations occur. This is easy when you have your smartphone to hand.

Why should I use the Preventicus Heartbeats app when I can just as easily use a standard fitness tracker?

Fitness trackers measure heart rate or pulse, but cannot document if your heart rhythm is regular and healthy. You need cardiac rhythm analysis for this.

Has the Preventicus Heartbeats app been clinically evaluated?

In a clinical study at the Basel University Hospital in Switzerland, the app correctly classified 90 per cent of subjects within a two-minute measurement. Accuracy rose to 95 per cent over five minutes. Similar results emerged in a study at the Barts Health Centre, London, involving 140 patients of whom 83 had their own smartphones. Of this group, 94 per cent were interested in using their smartphone to self-screen for AF. Almost all – 96 per cent – said they found the app easy to use.

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