Smartphone app for neonatal heart rate assessment: an observational study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBMJ Paediatrics Open. 2020, 4 (1), e000688. 10.1136/bmjpo-2020-000688
Background: Heart rate (HR) assessment is crucial in neonatal resuscitation, but pulse oximetry (PO) and electrocardiography (ECG) are rarely accessible in low-resource to middle-resource settings. This study evaluated a free-of-charge smartphone application, NeoTap, which records HR with a screen-tapping method bypassing mental arithmetic calculations. Methods: This observational study was carried out during three time periods between May 2015 and January 2019 in Uganda in three phases. In phase 1, a metronome rate (n=180) was recorded by low-end users (midwives) using NeoTap. In phase 2, HR (n=69) in breathing neonates was recorded by high-end users (paediatricians) using NeoTap versus PO. In phase 3, HR (n=235) in non-breathing neonates was recorded by low-end users using NeoTap versus ECG. Results: In high-end users the mean difference was 3 beats per minute (bpm) higher with NeoTap versus PO (95% agreement limits −14 to 19 bpm), with acquisition time of 5 seconds. In low-end users, the mean difference was 6 bpm lower with NeoTap versus metronome (95% agreement limits −26 to 14 bpm) and 3 bpm higher with NeoTap versus ECG in non-breathing neonates (95% agreement limits −48 to 53 bpm), with acquisition time of 2.7 seconds. The agreement between NeoTap and ECG was good in the HR categories of 60–99 bpm and ≥100 bpm; HR <60 bpm had few measurements (kappa index 0.71, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.79). Conclusion: HR could be accurately and rapidly assessed using a smartphone application in breathing neonates in a low-resource setting. Clinical assessment by low-end users was less accurate with wider CI but still adds clinically important information in non-breathing neonates. The authors suggest low-end users may benefit from auscultation-focused training. More research is needed to evaluate its feasibility in clinical use.