Remote heart monitoring devices that can transmit data to call centres could help save lives in remote areas if an experimental system being tested in the Italian island of Capri proves useful.
Unveiling a three-month trial of the new system on Friday, doctors said they had distributed some 20 “cardiotelephones” across the island to pharmacists, shopkeepers and others who had received training to act as the first point of contact for emergencies far from the nearest doctor or hospital.
“The area is particularly awkward to reach, since it’s made up of small streets that are hard to pass through as well as gorges on the coast,” said Massimo Chiariello, head of cardiology at Naples University.
The “phone” is a kind of electrocardiograph and transmitter rolled into one.
It measures electrical currents associated with heart muscle activity and transmits the data to a call centre where the information is analysed and then sent back to the patient and to a cardiologist allowing for speedy diagnosis and action.
“This system could contribute to recognising an acute incident and shorten the length of time for help to arrive, a crucial element in the survival of the patient,” he said.
The island of Capri is just off the coast of Naples and has been a favoured retreat for the rich and famous ever since the ancient Roman emperors. Its steep hills and picturesque towns are among the most beautiful scenery in Italy.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD