Study Uses Mobile Technology to Help Predict and Prevent Heart Disease

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Heidi Dohse has spent much of her adulthood monitoring a pacemaker implanted into her chest at the age of 19 to repair arrhythmias, or rapid irregular heartbeats.

For years, that’s meant that Dohse, 49, has had to fly several times a year from her New York home to California for check-ups with the medical team at UC San Francisco that performed the life-saving procedure to correct her heart rhythms when she was a teenager.

Those time-consuming trips are no longer as necessary since she’s enrolled in an ambitious UCSF-developed online cardiovascular study that harnesses the power of mobile technology to monitor patients using their smartphones and send the information to doctors who can analyze the data and provide instant feedback.

“Because I live in New York and my UCSF doctors are here in San Francisco, I can use all these mobile devices and tools to feel like I’m still a patient of theirs,” Dohse said. “It’s one of the reasons my staying with UCSF makes sense.”

Through the Health eHeart Study, which launched Tuesday, physicians hope to better understand how the heart functions and to develop new ways to predict and prevent cardiovascular disease. The study – funded by the Salesforce.com Foundation – aims to enroll 1 million people from around the world.

“We hope to be able to collect copious amounts of data on a large segment of the population so we can develop very robust and accurate models to predict the occurrence of heart disease in people who don’t yet have heart disease, or slow the progression in people who already have heart disease,” said cardiac electrophysiologist Jeffrey Olgin, MD, chief of the UCSF Division of Cardiology.