April 12, 2024

This startup detects heart disease using motion sensors in your phone

Health technology has a rocky history. For every story of the Apple Watch that saves someone’s lifethere is a Theranos who ruins it for everyone.

Yet the sector continues. We all want to be healthy and know more about our bodies – and this is a profit opportunity that tech companies can’t ignore. The problem is that as consumers we have difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff, the hard science of cosmetics.

Take, for example, the heart monitoring functions on popular wearables such as the Apple Watch or the Fitbit Charge. These are useful tools for general heart health awareness, but studies have shown they are not precise enough for clinical use and any data they collect “should be interpreted with caution.”

This isn’t to say that today’s wearables can’t be of some use, just that they can’t be completely trusted. This may change in the future, but today if we want to get a good idea of ​​something like heart health, we have to go to a hospital.

The <3 of EU technology

The latest rumblings from the EU tech scene, a story from our wise old founder Boris, and some questionable AI art. It’s free in your inbox every week. Register now!

Well, at least that’s what I thought. A Finnish startup called CardioSignal wants to counter this trend, claiming it can detect heart disease using just a phone. Intrigued, I contacted Juuso Blomster, the company’s CEO, to find out more.

The CardioSignal story

In our conversation, Blomster tells me that CardioSignal has its roots in academia, specifically the University of Turku, a Finnish educational institution.

Blomster is a clinical cardiologist by profession and has almost twenty years of practical experience. The seed of CardioSignal was planted around 2011, a period he spent in Australia. He tells TNW that it was at that time that he started to see wearables making their first waves.

This type of technology – with the Fitbit as a good example – has steadily gained popularity. “As a cardiologist, when I saw patients, they were interested in whether they could use a sports watch to monitor their heart health,” Blomster says.

At the same time, his colleagues in Finland began testing consumer wearables to see what they could achieve in a health setting. They explored the possibility of using smartwatches in tracking heart health, but found it difficult to get clinically accurate measurements from them.

“After this, we started investigating different types of sensors and quickly came to the conclusion that if you use two common sensors, you would [on a phone]the accelerometer and the gyroscope, and place them on your chest, then we can actually read your heart.

The motion sensors in phones evolved so quickly, becoming small, accurate and sensitive enough to measure when the valves in the heart open and close – something you can ‘usually only get with a heart ultrasound’.

“I still remember the first time we compared the ultrasound signals [to those from] the motion sensors,” says Blomster. When they noticed that the difference between the two was well within the margin of error (“really, the same”), he and his team became incredibly excited.

They realized that with this technology and data they could achieve ‘big things’.

What exactly is CardioSignal?

CardioSignal is essentially an app that you load on your phone.

You place the handset on your chest and then, as Blomster explains, it uses the two common sensors mentioned earlier to measure the movement of your heart.

After one minute, this data is sent to a secure cloud service for analysis. From there, the device can determine if you are suffering atrial fibrillation (AFib)the most common heart rhythm disorder.

But is this like the heart monitoring technology in many smartwatches? Useful for broad understanding, but clinically useless?

No. CardioSignal’s technology has been analyzed in more than 20 peer-reviewed publicationshas been validated for clinical use and is categorized as a medical device CE class IIa.

In other words, it’s the real deal. CardioSignal’s is the first technology validated to detect heart disease without the need for specialized equipment.

The market has taken notice. Early 2024 is CardioSignal has raised $10 millionthe financing led by DigiTx Partnerswith the participation of Sand water And Maki.vc.

Roadblocks and competitors

While CardioSignal has a lot of potential, it still has a long way to go.

Currently, the app and device only detect atrial fibrillation (AFib). Although this is the most common heart rhythm disorder, the company is not the only one conducting this research.

Both Samsung and Apple smartwatches have the ability to detect AFib, and since they sit on your wrist and work in the background (rather than having to rest on your chest for a whole minute), this is much more appealing to most users .

When I presented this to Blomster, he pointed out a series of advantages that CardioSignal’s technology has over wearables.

“The main advantage is that it can measure your heart directly,” he says. Because it literally sits on the user’s chest, he can immediately read the heart rhythm.

In contrast, most wearable devices are closer to your hand, putting them at a fair distance from the organ it’s measuring. “A lot can happen in between,” says Blomster.

In addition, a telephone can provide much more information. In general, smartwatches use a single data channel: the pulse from an optical sensor. The two sensors on the phone that CardioSignal uses – the accelerometer and the gyroscope – each provide three-dimensional information and actually provide six channels of data.

“When a heart pumps, there is rotation and twist,” says Blomster. This means that the company’s ability to track movements across multiple vectors gives them great insight into how a heart works.

CardioSignal’s next steps

Blomster tells me that there is “continuing clinical validation” for a range of other conditions as well. Heart failure detection will appear in Europe this year, but beyond that the company plans to add detection aortic stenosis, coronary artery diseaseAnd hypertension of the pulmonary artery in the near future.

However, there are some drawbacks to the technology. CardioSignal should be used daily, and while it only takes a minute to apply it to your sternum and get results, it’s not the most natural use. This is a decision that CardiSignal has consciously made, because it wants to make its heart monitoring technology ‘as accessible as possible’.

If people are concerned and want insight into their heart – or want some control over their existing condition and need motivation to take medication – CardioSignal can help, all without needing expensive equipment that is often not even available from GP practices.

The smartphone as a modern medical device

Interestingly, CardioSignal isn’t alone in using the humble smartphone in the healthcare technology sector.

To find out more about this trend, we spoke to Varun Mishra, a senior analyst at Counterpoint research. “Smartphones are continuously gaining importance due to widespread use cases in personal health, wellness, [and] healthcare management,” he says.

In recent years we have not only seen a variety of apps Headroom or Medisafe are gaining in popularity, but the devices have also become more involved in the way we track our bodies. They “played a crucial role in gaining access to doctors via video consultations, especially during COVID lockdowns”, and now take on much of the medical administration as making doctor appointments or viewing test results is now often done via the phone happens.

In terms of personal health, Mishra says wearables now often act as an ‘input device’, performing deeper analytics on smartphone apps themselves. This trend is happening across the industry, with other medical devices becoming increasingly smarter.

“Glucometers, scales, blood pressure monitors, pill dispensers, metabolism trackers or even toothbrushes are all connected together,” he says – and the smartphone runs a central hub to analyze them.

CardioSignal is therefore part of a broader trend in which phones are becoming increasingly important in the way we manage our health.

What’s on the horizon for healthcare technology?

“In the future, everything that can be connected will be connected,” says Mishra. “More and more health-related devices will become smarter and rely on smartphones to communicate with end users.”

This bodes well for a company like CardioSignal, as it means people can feel comfortable using their phones to monitor and monitor their health.

Of course there are dangers to this. As more and more of our medical data moves to our phones, the danger of that information being targeted by hackers increases. The easier it is for us to access all our data, the easier it is for hackers too.

Still, this feels like a small risk given the broad benefits of smartphone-based health applications. Phones are an ideal way to democratize the medical industry and ensure that doctors have access to more information than ever to do their work and that we have a greater understanding of our bodies. And it is something that almost the whole world can benefit from.

As technology matures and more physicians become involved, we could see the entire healthcare industry change for the better. And in this rare case, it seems that smartphones could actually be good for society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *