A year-long pilot program in Australia to screen for for atrial fibrillation (AF) found new, previously undiagnosed AF in 1.5% of those tested. The SEARCH-AF study used the AliveCor Heart Monitor ECG to test 1,000 customers 65 years and older through community screening in suburban Sydney pharmacies. Pharmacists used the AliveCor device, attached to an iPhone, to transmit 30-60 second ECG recordings to study cardiologists. If AF was suspected, the follow-up was a GP review and a 12-lead ECG performed. AF is the most common heart rhythm abnormality and puts an individual at five times the risk for stroke (National Stroke Association). Early diagnosis and treatment cost savings are straightforward: over $20,000 (~£12,400) for prevention of one stroke. (This Editor’s opinion–it’s an understatement.) Per the study summary:
The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of extending iECG screening into the community, based on 55% warfarin prescription adherence, would be $AUD5,988 (€3,142; $USD4,066) per Quality Adjusted Life Year gained and $AUD30,481 (€15,993; $USD20,695) for preventing one stroke. (“Feasibility and cost effectiveness of stroke prevention through community screening for atrial fibrillation using iPhone ECG in pharmacies”, Thrombosis and Haemostasis, Ben Freedman, MD et al., 1 April online (subscription access required for full study)
15 new AF diagnoses per 1,000 may not sound high, but using the above estimate, this type of community screening using AliveCor or a similar device translates to a cost saving of over $310,425, assuming that all undiagnosed AF resulted in a stroke. Even if less, it is a nice return on investment, health and future outcomes. (This Editor invites more accurate cost analysis.) AliveCor release (San Francisco Business Times). Additional coverage CNet Australia. The George Institute for Global Health Australia project page which extends the study to GP clinics.