Testing interpretation accuracy of ECG readings sent via cellphone camera

Todd Vandenbark

medical technology innovationsShortening the time from collecting data on a patient to implementing treatment could help save lives. If a cardiologist is not locally available to interpret an ECG readout, would sending an image via cellphone to another specialist work as well as reading a paper printout? As reported on the iMedicalApps blog, researchers from Basxkent University in Turkey conducted a study to “evaluate the accuracy of diagnosing abnormal 12 lead ECGs.” They compared three groups:

  • Cardiologists interpreting ECGs from paper
  • Emergency room doctor interpreting from paper, and
  • Cardiologist interpreting from mobile device

The first group made fewer major mistakes than the other two groups, as was expected. However, there was no statistically significant difference between the second and third groups. This suggests that “sending the ECG images via a multimedia message service may be a practical and inexpensive telecardiology procedure,” and could be a helpful aid in cardiology consultation. In practical terms, an ER physician working in a rural or remote area could consult with a cardiologist in a larger metropolitan area, and get a faster second opinion before proceeding with treatment. And while the iMedicalApps author points out that it would, indeed, be interesting to see this repeated with higher-resolution phone cameras, this technology could be implemented now, and begin helping to save lives sooner. While telemedicine cannot be a permanent substitute for in-person care, it could save lives in an emergency.


Bilgi, M., Gulalp, B., Erol, T., Gullu, H., Karagun, O., Altay, H., & Muderrisoglu, H. (2012). Interpretation of electrocardiogram images sent through the mobile phone multimedia messaging service. Telemed J E Health, 18(2), 126-131. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2011.0108