Listen to your heart: cardiac self-care hits the smartphone


Doctors once predominantly made decisions over their patients’ health, but times are changing. The physician-patient relationship is evolving into a more even partnership, through patients’ increasing knowledge and awareness of their own health. The Welbean Heartscope combines mobile technology and data analytics to provide users with personalised heart information, enabling them to own their own health and lifestyle choices.

As the world’s first heart muscle performance monitor, the Heartscope is a stethoscope that plugs into the user’s smartphone, transferring data to the Welbean Body Sound Analyzer iOS app. The app analyses and presents the data as visually appealing measurements in four key areas of heart health:

  1. Heart contractility: Measurement of the strength and workload of the heart muscle.
  2. Heart motility: Measurement of the flexibility of the heart muscle.
  3. Stress: Measurement of stress levels.
  4. Heart rate: Measurement of the speed of the heartbeat.

At a price of over $100, the Heartscope is an effective way to track heart muscle function over time and to allow the user to share their data with anyone of their choice.

This technology holds potential for healthcare systems. When it comes to reducing the chronic disease burden, prevention is key. Enabling patients to visualise and track their health, particularly for a disease that is the leading cause of death globally, can encourage lifestyle changes and keep healthcare practitioners informed for continuous care. The US spends $207bn each year on heart disease alone; by helping to preventing the onset of cardiovascular disease, this device could drastically reduce the burden of the disease, thus alleviating strain on healthcare systems.

For many living in rural areas and developing countries, access to healthcare is limited, as practitioners are often located in large cities, requiring a day’s worth of travelling. This technology will be particularly useful in bridging gaps between patients and their physicians. Users will be able to track and share their data with healthcare practitioners, supporting telemedicine and rural health clinics.

Moreover, a significant impact is feasible. In 2015, nearly two-thirds of Americans were smartphone owners, with almost 62% of smartphone owners using their phone in the past year to obtain information about a health condition. Smartphones are also becoming increasingly popular globally. If the Heartscope becomes compatible with mobile operating systems other than iOS, it has the potential to revolutionize self-care and cardiovascular disease prevention.