In a North American first, researchers at Rockyview General Hospital are using technology that tracks changes in heart rate to predict health outcomes in patients and indicate overall health and wellness.
Heart rate variability is an indicator of stress response in the body and can act as an early warning sign for the onset of illness. Using small portable monitors, the study looks at the effectiveness of monitoring HRV to predict the onset of illness in intensive care unit patients where medical conditions can change quickly.
“Heart rate variability gives us a window into the body’s entire physiological functioning,” says Dr. David Liepart, an Alberta Health Services anesthesiologist and lead investigator in the study.
“This will be a success if I’ve actually developed something that helps people know whether or not they’re healthy or not healthy,” Liepert said.
The team is looking at a person’s heart rate every moment to get an accurate picture and Liepert said it’s the miniscule shifts where the real information lies.
“You can even predict the likelihood of them having complications after surgery, just with a little 20 minute snippet of time,” he said.
One of the participants is a fellow physician, Dr. Anthony Cook at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, who said he’s excited about the implications.
“I think that we’re on the cusp of really changing our attitude towards preventative health care,” Cook said. “The cardiac rhythm, you can use that to diagnose or see different levels of stress on the heart.”
The four-month study wraps up next month and final results should be ready within two to three years.