High-tech heart help: How useful are cardiac smartphone apps?


Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

More than 43,000 apps focus on health and medicine and heart-monitoring is among the top categories. However, just because there's an app for that doesn't mean you should use it. 

Many of these apps track your blood pressure or measure heart rate and some of them do it by touching the camera lens.

"This is a very exciting time in medicine because traditionally doctors have needed to be in hospitals or clinics to treat or monitor or manage patients but now some of these new technologies, these apps and sensors allow us to monitor and manage conditions at home. Some of them are not ready for primetime, for clinical use, but can provide patients with helpful information in terms of what they might see at home," Dr. Zubin Eapen, cardiologist and assistant professor at Duke University, said on "CBS This Morning."

One app that measures heart rate is called Instant Heart Rate, made by Azumio.

"This is an app that’s been folded into a fitness tracker that they have, which uses the camera lens on the back of your phone, you place your index finger over the camera lens and it allows you to detect your heart rate."

But Eapen sounded a note of caution in terms of the reliability of apps in general.

"This is something we're not completely sure of yet in terms of how reliable these apps are. The FDA is trying to regulate some of these apps, particularly those that might influence patient care. Some of these apps need to be controlled and they need to be studied better and integrated into the clinical workflow so doctors know how to use them." 

Some devices are even available on your smartphone that can even serve as a portable EKG, such as one offered by AliveCor

Again, however, Eapen cautioned that people with active cardiac conditions, or those that feel chest pains or other potential heart attack symptoms should see their doctors.

Also seen on "CBS This Morning":

Smartheart: The smartheart is the first personal use, mobile, 12-lead ECG device that enables the detection of heart attacks. With smartheart and a smartphone or tablet (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.), you can perform a full hospital grade ECG in no more than 30 seconds without any need for medical professional assistance, and send it to your physician for diagnosis.