Airplane rescue, Colbert booking round out Topol’s HIMSS week

By: Jonah Comstock | Mar 11, 2013        

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Scripps Health Dr. Eric Topol

“We have sensors in our cars, why don’t we have sensors in our bodies?” Dr. Eric Topol, Chief Academic Officer at Scripps Health told the crowd at his HIMSS 2013 keynote address. “We could detect a heart attack before it happens.”

When Topol is on a plane, there are sensors there, too.

Just hours after delivering his speech, Topol was called upon to use the AliveCor Heart Monitor he demonstrated at the event to assist a fellow passenger in distress.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Topol used the device to diagnose atrial fibrillation in a woman suffering from nausea and an apparent irregular heartbeat. He was able to calm and stabilize the woman until the flight landed as scheduled, according to the Union-Tribune.

“Diagnosed atrial fib, rapid VR for a woman in distress today on a plane at 30K ft, no emergency landing req’d,” Topol tweeted at the time. He also included a snapshot of the patient’s AliveCor readout.

Amazingly, this is the second time Topol has been in the right place at the right time, with an AliveCor heart monitor, to assist a heart patient on an airplane. The first was a year and a half ago on a flight from Washington, D.C. to San Diego. In that case, Topol diagnosed an imminent heart attack, and recommended the pilot make an emergency landing — which he did, somewhere in the vicinity of Cincinnati. The patient had a stent implanted and survived, according to a report in Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry.

“I guess this is really a sign-of-the-times about how useful these mobile medical devices can be,” Topol told the Union-Tribune on Tuesday.

A recent guest on our first MobiHealthNews podcast, Topol has been described variously as a digital health poster-child, an mHealth thought leader, and even a “rockstar of science.” Now he can add “two-time airline hero” to the list. Who knows what other names might emerge from his upcoming appearance on “The Colbert Report”, announced shortly after his airline ordeal. The interview, in which Topol will discuss his book, “The Creative Destruction of Medicine,” is scheduled to air on March 26th.