Supermarket trolleys upgraded to save lives

Electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors installed in trolley handles identified 39 people with atrial fibrillation heart condition in pioneering three-month study.  

Heart and circulatory diseases cause about a quarter of all deaths in the UK. Some 160,000 people die of heart disease each year, about 48,000 of these under the age of 75. One problem is that people aren’t always aware that they even have a heart problem. But now going shopping might help.

Shopping trolleys

A team at Liverpool John Moores University undertook a three-month project in which ECG sensors were fitted to the handles of shopping trolleys in a number of Sainsbury’s supermarkets. People out shopping were instructed to hold the handles for 60 seconds to be sure of a good reading. The handle of the trolley then showed either a green tick or red cross. 

The results of the trial have now been presented at a European Society of Cardiology conference held in Edinburgh. Of 2,155 participants in the trial, 220 received a red flag indicating potential atrial fibrillation, or AF, a condition that can cause an irregular heart rate which can lead to stroke. These 220 people were referred to a doctor for further assessment and 59 of them were confirmed to have AF.  

Of these, 39 had previously not been aware of any medical issue. They can now be prescribed anti-clotting medication to lower the risk of potential complications. 

The team behind the project say it still needs work. For example, some 20% of the 220 potential cases involved unclear readings, thought to be the result of not holding the handles for a full 60 seconds. Where there were good readings, the system had a relatively high rate of success in identifying the condition. 

Of course, such a method could help to identify heart problems early, which can improve outcomes. It’s hoped that the system will also engage people who don’t regularly consult a doctor. 

Professor Ian Jones from Liverpool John Moores University says: ‘This study shows the potential of taking health checks to the masses without disrupting daily routines. Nearly two-thirds of the shoppers we approached were happy to use a trolley and the vast majority of those who declined were in a rush rather than wary of being monitored. 

‘By adopting this kind of approach, we’ve become more accessible, and therefore we’re much more likely to identify healthcare problems.’

In related news, a new augmented reality app AR app is helping people who live with dementia.

Photo by Timo Kuusela


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top