One of the biggest areas of economic growth, technical development, and entrepreneurial zeal is healthcare, and for good reason. An aging population, rising costs, and recent legislation changes make it a hot field, and the proliferation of powerful, portable computing technology is quietly beginning to invade healthcare. Enter Qardio, a company that had two Bluetooth-enabled products on display at the CE Week Line Shows: the QardioCore, a portable continuous-monitoring EKG machine, and QardioArm, a portable blood pressure cuff.
Taking one’s own cardiovascular readings, whether it’s heart rate and electrical activity or blood pressure, can be a challenge. Doctors only get a limited amount of time with patients, and the readings they take are very narrow point-in-time snapshots of a person’s heart health. As app-enabled medical accessories, Qardio’s products make it simple and easy to take your readings, but the intelligence of the Qardio app adds additional value to the data being collected. And because it utilizes Bluetooth SMART (otherwise known as 4.0 or LE), the app provides a setup and use experience so simple it passes not only the Mom Test, but it could probably pass a Grandma Test as well.
You can use the app to set reminders, mark important health-relevant issues (like forgetting to take one of your medications, which could explain a deviation in your readings), and push all this data up to the cloud. Once there, you can share it securely with family and your doctor, so loved ones will know how you’re doing and your doctor can get a clearer picture of your overall cardiovascular health. Additional metadata is also integrated, so your doctor can correlate spikes in heart rate with increased skin temperature and movement (indicating exercise, for example). And because it’s all stored in the cloud, your doctor can keep an eye on you remotely, freeing your schedule of routine followup visits.
EKG on the Run
QardioCore was the product that caught my eye on the floor at CE Week. An elegant double swoop of glossy white plastic, this little gadget holds small dry contact sensors against your chest using a simple elastic band—there’s no cold gel, suction cups, or shaved chests (for the gents, anyway; this was never much of a problem for the ladies). These sensors can measure your heart’s electrical activity (often called an EKG), heart rate, heart rate variability, and gather basic orientation information to determine if you’re lying down, standing, or moving quickly. They draw this information continuously, so you get a more complete picture of your heart health than is possible with a single EKG in a doctor’s office.
Not aimed just at the elderly or those with heart conditions, QardioCore can also be used as a very sophisticated training tool for athletes, similar to the lifestyle tracking bracelets that have become popular recently. The information gathered can help you identify workout activities that really get your heart pumping and those that probably aren’t helping too much (sitting at the juice bar, for instance). The QardioApp imports all the sensor data via Bluetooth and provides you historic tracking and annotation options, so you can pinpoint events like a really good cardio session or a day when you were feeling particularly tired. You or your doctor can zoom in to the data surrounding these annotations to give it a more thorough examination.
Pump it Up!
Blood pressure readings are a pain. Gone are the days of nurses in crisp white frocks with a pocket watch counting down six seconds, but the technology behind it hasn’t really improved all that much. That’s where the QardioArm comes in; a simple arm cuff contains all the measuring equipment that transmits results wirelessly to the QardioApp on your iPhone. Many patients need to take multiple readings and average them out, but the QardioArm takes care of all the heavy lifting for you, giving you better readings and peace of mind.
Although it keeps track of fewer data points than the QardioCore, the QardioArm still offers the same powerful data features via the app interface. You can track your complete history and annotate it, which can then be made available to your doctor or family members. Feeling fatigued? Use the app to annotate today’s readings as “I was feeling tired,” and your doctor can zoom straight to that data and look for signs of heart issues. And since the data is available 24×7, your doctor or family can check in on you any time and from anywhere.
Although neither are available yet, you can preorder both the QardioCore and QardioArm at Qardio’s website, or just subscribe to their newsletter for updates on both products. Although it’s fun to see new gadgets and gimmicks at these shows, it’s genuinely fascinating to see how all this technology can be combined to make revolutionary products possible. Whether you have a cardiovascular condition and need to monitor it for your health or are an athlete looking to drive your workout with data, all it takes is an iPhone (and one of Qardio’s products, of course).