A new smartphone app assists with the correct interpretation of electrocardiogram (ECG) reports and could improve clinical training and reduce the risk of misdiagnosis and subsequent fatalities worldwide.

Dr Cathal Breen, a lecturer in clinical physiology in the School of Health Sciences at Ulster University, Northern Ireland, who developed the app, 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.

“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 works as a clinical decision support tool. It guides users through ECG analysis by using a systematic, user-friendly format which helps to overcome diagnostic ambiguity, ensuring a more accurate reading and interpretation.

Around 300 million ECGs are performed each year worldwide. 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.

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The app currently has over 10,000 downloads worldwide and is being used in educational institutions in Ireland, the UK, Europe, the USA, Canada, the Philippines and Pakistan. It is available for download on Android and iPhone.