Remote ECG monitoring allows medical professionals to review a person’s electrocardiogram immediately when they’re experiencing symptoms or to check their heart rate or rhythm at any time (i.e., at rest, during physical activity, or when stressed).

It allows them to detect certain arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythms that may be causing symptoms.

Monitors are available in many forms, including Holter monitors, loop recorders, and event monitors. There are also implantable cardiac monitoring devices for people with infrequent symptoms.

More recently, companies have commercialized heart rhythm monitors, and many people can now monitor their rhythms via smartwatches or handheld and electrode-based devices. These devices work by using either electrodes or sensors on the skin’s surface to detect the heart’s electrical signal.

Yes, you may use an at-home ECG without a consult. But it would be best to discuss with a doctor before use, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms.

You can. However, remote monitoring is not always indicated for a diagnosis of controlled atrial fibrillation.

Remote monitoring can help detect an elevated heart rate and rhythm changes in people with palpitations or paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.

You should check with your doctor for a recommendation of an appropriate remote monitoring device for your diagnosis.

The recordings are accurate, but clinical symptoms must accompany them for a diagnosis.

Some of the newer commercial devices have been Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved to detect common arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, bradycardia (slower-than-normal heart rate), tachycardia (faster-than-normal heart rate), and premature ventricular contractions.

The most important thing to remember is that these are computer-programmed devices. While they do a good job detecting common arrhythmias, nothing is 100% accurate. For example, activities like exercise and running may cause inaccurate readings.

I presume that the programming of different sensors and devices may affect their ability to pick up arrhythmias, but multiple studies show that newer devices and algorithms do a nice job detecting them.

Users must also be adept at using the devices of their choice to ensure accuracy.

There are no clear harmful downsides to being able to monitor your heart rhythm, especially from the comfort of your own home.

Some people may experience anxiety over irregularities detected by monitors. But not all irregular heart rates detected may be of any clinical significance. Additionally, monitoring can lead to more testing and doctor visits, which may not always be necessary.

On a positive note, picking up and treating atrial fibrillation may help prevent strokes.

Cost is a factor to consider with some of these devices. Without getting too specific, some devices do as good a job as others but are comparatively less expensive.

People should also consider other factors like ease of use, size, form factor, and monitor type.

The reason for monitoring is also a driving factor. A conversation with your doctor could be helpful when deciding on a monitor.

Some people might not want their data stored and transferred through the cloud, so devices like an Apple watch may not be for them.

A remote monitor might detect changes in the ECG typically seen during a heart attack. However, they’re not generally approved to diagnose or identify heart attacks in progress.

In the event someone is having chest discomfort or thinks they may be having a heart attack, they should call 911 or local emergency services immediately.

Dr. Uzochukwu Ibe is an ABMS board certified internal medicine physician and a general cardiologist. He is completing his fellowship in interventional cardiology in Akron, Ohio.