The NHS has launched a new device in England designed to accelerate the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common arrhythmia and a contributing factor of up to one in five strokes in the UK.

KardiaMobile, developed by AliveCor, is a credit card sized device able to detect AF in 30 seconds, by recording the electrical activity of the heart through a person’s fingertips and sending the data to a smartphone/tablet app.

The app allows heart rhythm recordings to be viewed, saved and shared with healthcare professionals allowing for faster detection and diagnosis of AF, according to the firm.

AF affects 1.4 million people in the UK, but it is thought that almost a further half a million people are undiagnosed and at increased risk from potentially fatal AF-related stroke.

As symptoms come and go, people with suspected AF are sent to hospital for costly ECGs, and it can take several visits over several months or even years before a diagnosis is made.

“Introducing this innovative technology to GP surgeries and hospitals gives healthcare professionals a quick and simple way of recording an ECG without the need to send a patient to hospital.

“The device can be used at any time, regardless if they show signs of symptoms or not. This ultimately means AF can be diagnosed faster, anticoagulation therapy can be prescribed to reduce the risk of an AF-related stroke and treatment for AF can be accelerated,” said Trudie Lobban MBE, founder and chief executive at Arrhythmia Alliance & AF Association.

KardiaMobile could save the NHS an estimated £2 billion by cutting the costs related to diagnosis of AF, not including the longer-term benefits and financial savings of potentially preventing severe and costly AF-related strokes, the company notes.

The device is being rolled out as part of the NHS England-funded NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA), which is delivered in partnership with England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs).

“Using cost-effective technology, the NHS will now be able to identify people with irregular heartbeats quickly and easily. This will save lives,” said Professor Gary Ford, stroke physician and lead on the project for the AHSNs.

“As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday this year, this is also a great reminder of the way that healthcare is continually evolving and innovating. Taking advantage of digital health solutions will be even more important for the next 70 years.”