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A reader responding to my column about Kardia Mobile, an EKG device that fits in a shirt pocket, suggested that for people who don't have smartphones the Emay ECG device is a better choice. So, I bought one for $79 - the Kardia costs $100 - and tested both. Neither device is 100 percent accurate or anywhere near it.

As I cautioned in my column about Kardia, no one with chest pain or other symptoms should rely on devices such as the Kardia or Emay. Only an EKG, read by a doctor, can give an accurate diagnosis. If your chest hurts, go to the emergency room.

But the Emay, which also fits in a shirt pocket, is, as the reader points out, the logical choice if you're among the 75 people on Earth who don't have a smartphone. I subtract points because it tends to jump to conclusions that aren't borne out in comparison to a recent EKG, which was normal. The Emay insisted that I had an arrhythmia or one of a dozen heart problems it can read. The Kardia diagnoses only one problem - "possible atrial fibrillation" - and it found that my heart was pumping normally after each test. The Emay also showed such things as slow heartbeat, fast heartbeat and missed beat. It also concluded at different times that I had premature beats, and its measure of my heart rate was wildly different each time I tested it. The Kardia gave an accurate pulse rate in every test.

The Kardia is a Band-aid-size device with two metal pads. Place the device on or near an Apple or Android phone and put fingers on the pads, and it gives a 30-second readout on the phone's screen. The resulting EKG can be printed, emailed to a doctor or hung on your refrigerator for all to admire.

The Emay is shirt-pocket-size, too, but bulkier. It doesn't require a smartphone, and gives readings from four positions, including near the heart. Its diagnoses are flashed on the device's screen.

The Emay's software, loaded on a PC from the supplied thumb drive, lets users customize the duration of tests, from 10 to 30 seconds. The Kardia has only one setting - 30 minutes, and aside from a rudimentary menu on a smartphone, it has no software. Both are sensitive to movements - you have to be rested and sitting. Interference, such as being too close to a PC or monitor, will affect readings.

The Kardia lets you save only the current EKG, unless you pay $10 a month to store more. The Emay can store unlimited EKGs when they are uploaded to a PC or Mac. The Kardia gives users the choice of having an EKG technician or a cardiologist read the EKG. The tech charges $10 and gets back to you within an hour. The cardiologist read costs $20 and takes up to a deal-breaking 24 hours to get a reading.

My conclusion? Again, I wouldn't rely on devices like Kardia or Emay when I sense my heart is malfunctioning. Both devices can diagnose atrial fibrillation, a condition that can cause a stroke, but only the Emay will diagnose a dozen other potentially dangerous conditions. If it were more accurate, and more in line with my actual hospital EKG, I could recommend it. It the Kardia diagnosed more than "possible atrial fibrillation," I could recommend it.

So, there you have it: ambivalence in a heartbeat. The devices are best used to spot possible problems, but neither is 100 percent accurate or anywhere near it.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Harold Glicken is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at helpware.column@gmail.com, and a collection of his columns can be found at www.helpware-online.com.

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