Review: EMAY Portable EKG Monitor
I ordered the EMAY Portable EKG monitor because I was having the sensation of having my heart in my throat, pounding heavily after an entire weekend of 90-100 BPM heart rate. My normal heart rate is 65-75 BPM. After having 2 EKG tests plus an echo-cardiogram, there was nothing pathological found. I then wore a Holter monitor for a week which is a real pain in the butt to deal with especially at shower time and bedtime. Although I had the sensation of having my heart in my throat all that week, the Holter results showed that I had 2 events – a missed beat and a make up beat, both considered benign.
I’ve been feeling the same for 3 months now and decided to try to catch any events for my cardiologist to evaluate without the Holter monitor fuss. After trying the EMAY monitor, here’s what I found.
I think it is handy to have a waveform but the signal is not reliably clean enough for real interpretation unless one has a regular “irregular” heartbeats. The most vivid waveform I measured was under my left breast – one of the four positions they recommend.
The instruction pamphlet shows four different locations to take readings using the right hand on the rounded end of the monitor then placing the other flat end on 1) left hand, 2) left wrist, 3) left leg above ankle, or 4) under the left breast about two inches below the nipple (I’m a male.) I believe this is the 4th or 5th intercostal space between ribs. I recommend finding that space between the ribs for best results.
It seems to accurately determine the heart rate and the rate is easy to see on the charts.
Very difficult to maintain a “clean” signal while monitoring. When it is handheld, it has many slightly different waveforms between beats (unless, of course, my heart action has a lot of variation.) This makes it difficult to see if there is anything pathological with the various parts of the waveform (P,Q,R,S, and T portions). In one 72 BPM chart, I see no P waves at all which makes me think something is wrong, yet the very next attempt has a few P waves here and there.
- The device is nicely packaged and EMAY deserves a lot of credit for that first impression out-of-box experience.
- Instructions in the box are brief but reasonably well documented on how to use it. I recommend charging the unit as soon as you open it while reading the documentation.
- It’s packaged with a charging/transfer USB cord and a USB thumb drive containing the PC/MAC software. I did not use the thumb drive but simply downloaded from the EMAYLTD.COM website.
- My first 10 captures were junk until I got better at holding the device properly. I tried hand-to-hand, hand-to-wrist, hand-to-leg, and hand-to-chest, all having consistency issues until I got the hang of it.
Using the PC software, you can set the capture time to be 10 seconds (default), 15 or 30 seconds. Once set, future captures will be the same length.
In general, the PC software needs much improvement. (refer to photos)
- I originally installed on a Windows XP system with no errors. Only later when each transfer to the PC kept failing did I find that it was only compatible with Win 7 and later. When I moved to a Win 7 PC, transfers worked. The software should have detected XP and warned or failed to install with an error message saying I needed Windows 7 or higher.
- The main window shows files on the device as well as those downloaded. Under the “Manage” tab, double clicking on a downloaded file will display a very clear EKG printout with text details in the upper right where you can add specifics about the conditions of your captured waveform. These comments get stored back in the file for use later.
- Unfortunately, the waveform window cannot be expanded nor can you zoom in on it. It is a fixed size and even with a high res screen, it is too small to show the .04 second squares and examine the waveform closely.
- The waveform screen has a handy measurement tool to measure the time between specific areas of the waveform. It is a nice feature but since the window size is fixed, you can’t zoom in to accurately determine timing. (See photos)
- Since the screen size is fixed, I printed to a pdf file to determine what my doctor would see (I was concerned he would write off these charts due to the noisy captures.) The prints have a strange paper size (11.3 x 8.7 inches) and need to be adjusted but there is no option to do so when printing to pdf.
- I printed directly to paper and the results were better, although hard to see (see photo)
because of the faint lines of the trace. The printout is sized for at least 60 seconds of trace but you can only take a max of 30 second traces. If the cross-hatched background was scaled to fit the trace time, it would be infinitely more readable. Better yet, if the software just printed a larger version of what is on the screen, it would be more than sufficient.
My Samsung phone gives accurate heart rate and SP02 information but no traces of the heart after measuring are available. This EMAY Portable ECG Monitor is one of the few reasonably priced health gadgets that will capture an ECG trace and save it for review. I would like to compare it with another brand, but others look similar or are more expensive.
When using the device, the trace begins with an orange squiggly line while determining the reliability of the signal. If you move around or have poor skin contact it stays orange longer. Once the signal is deemed steady and reliable, the line turns green and it starts the capture. It takes practice to ensure a clean trace. Once I got the hang of it, I felt that the trace is only somewhat useful because I was never sure that it provided any more information than the accurate heart rate reading (the R-R peak timing). I will admit that if I had constant tachycardia or bradycardia (and possibly atrial fibrillation) that it would be seen in the trace.
Of the on-screen messages of “No abnormal”, “Tachycardia”, “Accidental VPB”, that I saw, none alarmed me. The Tachycardia traces were directly after exercising and were expected with a heart rate above 100. With both the “Accidental VPB” (ventricular premature beats), I could not be certain that my grip or electrical contact weren’t the problem because the next immediate capture showed “no abnormal”.
I’m concerned that the traces capture very few of the P wave portion of the heart’s activity and even those are difficult to assess. Sometimes you see a slight bump, then a negative one, or nothing at all in the same trace on a different beat. It alludes to having a poor trace or that I may be ill. If I go to the doctor and get a real EKG I don’t know if it will show the same thing or not since the next trace shows normal. It’s an awkward situation.
I contacted tech support through email and in return I received an email saying they would contact me within 24 hours. They also provided a phone number if I wanted immediate support. I waited. Six hours later they emailed me with things to check to get the captured traces to download. I had already figured out that it was a Windows XP problem but needed to ask about the poor waveforms. We had several email exchanges within the same day which I rate as really good tech support. They answered my questions and explained the problem with the lack of P waves as that being a limitation of single channel ECG but that they are working on improving that. I think they deserve high praise for rapid response and honesty. These folks are serious about happy customers.
I would recommend this to anyone that may have a consistent issue with heart rate (tachycardia, bradycardia, missing or extra beats). If there are subtle timing issues with your heart waveform indicating something more complex may be going on, I would not recommend this. I have doubts that you will reliably see these conditions with this device.