In 2011, Qualcomm Wireless Reach launched the Wireless Heart Health (WHH) program in collaboration with Life Care Networks, a Beijing-based company dedicated to bringing advanced technologies and products to remote areas in China.
After four years of business and technology development, WHH has served more than 600 community health centers and clinics across 21 provinces in China. More than 160,000 patients have benefitted from the program, some of whom are managing chronic cardiovascular diseases (CVD), and some of whom were screened for the first time. Many of these patients are rural and don’t have access to high-quality medical care.
In celebration of World Heart Day, we are happy to announce a new white paper summarizing WHH program results that highlight the program’s success supporting rural health providers to address the rising health burden of CVD.
China has a population of about 1.4 billion people. Over 40% of Chinese people live in rural areas, and the imbalanced allocation of health resources between rural and urban regions has become the subject of serious public concern. In some remote and underdeveloped areas, the private clinic is an important supplement to public hospitals. These clinics usually have a severe shortage of health professionals and medical resources. It’s quite common that there are only one or two general practitioners working at each clinic, serving thousands of residents from nearby counties and villages.
Lang Mao Shan, a clinic my colleague, Lauren Reed, and I visited last fall, is one of these private rural clinics. Two full-time providers serve 80,000 community residents living on the outskirts of Jinan City, delivering health services to an average of 350 patients per day in a small and crude clinic.
Dr. Ren (center) showing Qualcomm Government Affairs analysts Lauren Reed and blog post author Lynn Cui how the ECG-sensing smartphone works.
“About 20% of patients we see are suffering from CVD. We believe there are more CVD patients out there,” said Dr. Ren Nianbao, who has worked at the clinic for 20 years. “Quite a number of residents have never received a CVD screening or they won’t come see us unless there are serious symptoms.”
What Dr. Ren mentioned is also true in most rural areas. As non-communicable diseases, CVDs, such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, and arrhythmia, are the leading cause of death in China, responsible for approximately 2.6 million deaths annually. Out of every five deaths in China, two are caused by CVD. By 2020, deaths caused by CVD are projected to increase to four million per year. “CVD has spread to many rural areas in China, where medical care is less adequate than what can be found in the cities,” said Luo Zhengxiang, head of the Guangdong Cardiovascular Disease Research Institute.
Making CVD screening more convenient and accessible is one of the main goals of the WHH program. Replacing a conventional 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) machine, the program features a 3-lead ECG-sensing smartphone, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 MSM8612 processor. Health providers simply hold the device to a patient’s chest for approximately 30 seconds while the ECG sensor collects their ECG data. More importantly, the ECG data is sent immediately over the 3G or 4G LTE wireless network for analysis by cardiac specialists at a call center in Beijing. The 24-hour on-call cardiac specialists provide prompt feedback within minutes to clinic staff and patients via SMS or a phone call.
A doctor screening a patient with the ECG-sensing smartphone.
We are truly humbled that WHH can help rural health providers like Dr. Ren provide unprecedented access to affordable, quality CVD screening and treatment for patients. Thanks to innovative technologies and successful collaborations, CVD-related health care is improving rapidly in rural China and Qualcomm Wireless Reach is proud to help make that happen!