In Mexico, heart disease claims the lives of at least 60.000 people each year, two thirds of whom are older than 65, making it the second cause of death in this country. This impact could be minimized, however, if health care centers had better equipment to detect and monitor patients with heart problems, but electrocardiographs, the device that records the electrical currents emitted by the heart muscle, are still too expensive and difficult to maintain and operate.
"Only medical institutions or people of sufficient means can acquire them", explains Javier Gomez, a 25-year-old electronic engineer, graduate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, who has just presented a new, portable electrocardiograph with an innovative wireless alert system.
This development exemplifies his effort to create a technology to improve patient supervision eliminate the price barrier for purchasing medical equipment. His prototype has generated great expectations for the potential benefits not only in hospitals, but also in private homes.
To build his electrocardiograph, Gomez used affordable electronic components readily available on the market, which lowers the final price and simplifies its maintenance. “The fact that these elements are cheap does not sacrifice its great performance,” says the engineer.
The device can also be used outside hospitals because it can either work when plugged in or using rechargeable batteries. Furthermore, this system has a data leaseholder of that allows the visual interface of the electrocardiograph to be viewed as an executable file from any computer, allowing for remote analysis of the results.
Another big attraction of Gomez’s technology is that it vastly increases the freedom of movement of the doctors while it keeps them informed of any change experienced by a patient in real time. The conventional appliances lack an effective alarm system: they simply emit a “beep” when heart rate parameters are outside the those considered normal, forcing the staff who cares for the patient to be physically present in the room in order to detect the “alarm”.
However with Gomez´ system, the doctor can carry a small receiver that picks up wireless, infrared signals emitted by the electrocardiograph, which informs the doctor using three types of indicators (light, sound and text) of how their patients evolve, without the need to be physically present in the patient´s room. The system´s currently range is 30 meters, but Gomez is working on the implementation of a radio frequency method which would increase the range to 200 meters.