Smartphone-wielding pharmacists could become foot soldiers in efforts to prevent strokes in older Australians, researchers suggest.
The idea is that pharmacists will be able to detect danger signs in people who pop in for a quick test.
Researchers believe more than 1000 strokes could be prevented over 10 years, saving lives and preventing misery.
Ten Sydney pharmacies trialled special phone covers that are capable of diagnosing atrial fibrillation, an electrical heart abnormality responsible for a third of all strokes.
They screened 1000 Australians aged 65 and over, and found 1.5 per cent unknowingly had the heart condition.
Were the program to cover the 2.9 million Australians aged 65-84, it could prevent an average of 122 strokes per year, according to researchers from the University of Sydney.
The condition seldom generates symptoms that would prompt a patient to visit their doctor, so targeting patients elsewhere is a good strategy, they say in a paper that was published on Wednesday in the journal Thrombosis And Haemostasis.
Co-author Professor Ben Freedman said the findings could prompt a change in Australian screening policy and make pharmacy screenings routine practice.
“When screening becomes more generally available, those over 65 will want to include this as part of their regular health checks,” he said.
People diagnosed with the condition can be placed on blood-thinning drugs to reduce the risk of stroke.
The phone cover, called the AliveCor Heart Monitor, converts electrical impulses from users’ fingertips into ultrasound signals that are picked up by the phone’s microphone.
It is available for a range of smartphones, including Apple iPhones and Android phones.