ECU spin-off firm develops app for heart patients

People with implanted cardiac defibrillators can have some peace-of-mind thanks to a new smartphone application developed by experts at East Carolina University.

An ECU spin-off company, Quality of Life Applications, or QOL Apps Inc., is making its ICD Coach application available in theApple iPhone Store.

Dr. Samuel Sears

Dr. Samuel Sears

ICD Coach, which costs $4.99, is a mobile phone application with a multimedia educational purpose for cardiac patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators, or ICDs. The app will educate patients about information and strategies that will allow them to achieve a desirable quality of life, despite heart disease.

Dr. Samuel F. Sears, professor of psychology and cardiovascular sciences at East Carolina University, is the author behind the ICD Coach. A business partner in QOL Apps Inc., Sears is the director of cardiac psychology services at the East Carolina Heart Institute and a professor in the ECU Department of Cardiovascular Sciences and the Department of Psychology.

“My clinical practice and my research studies convinced me that psychological coping skills and information were needed widely in ICD patients across the world, and ICD Coach was invented to attempt to do that,” Sears said. “They fear having an arrhythmia and getting shocked and recognize that arrhythmias are dangerous and the shock hurts,” he added. 

Sears is an internationally known researcher, speaker and educator on the topic of the ICD and patient quality of life. Since 1997, he has contributed to the care of ICD patients through publication in professional commentaries and reviews, empirical work, the development of tools to aid in the research process, workshops designed for ICD patients and worldwide lectures.

The ICD Coach blends Sears’ research and clinical experience into a mobile phone application about cardiac survivorship, confident thinking, confident behavior and confident relationships with interactive exercises and information. ECU is a stakeholder in this endeavor, as Sears engaged numerous professors across the campus in business, marketing, visual design, graphics and technology transfer.

The ICD is the primary treatment for patients who survive or are at risk for cardiac arrest. This unique, applied area of psychology is notable because it more than 1 million patients. Surviving cardiac arrest is an accomplishment, but the process of resuming life after the event can be psychologically challenging.

Sears’ work is critical in offsetting the negatives associated with this life-saving technology by examining and minimizing the effects on patients and families because of the life-saving but painful, high-energy shock of the ICD that is delivered immediately upon the device’s detection of an arrythmia.

“The ICD Coach will provide early adopters with a useful, effective product as we move towards developing a suite of apps designed for doctors, patients, and future ICD patients,” said Gabe Dough, business partner in QOL Apps Inc.

ICD Coach is the first product to be launched from QOL Apps. Founded in November 2010, QOL Apps has a broad focus on developing multimedia educational products focused on improving quality of life for ICD patients.

The Office of Technology Transfer provided funds under its pilot Accelerator Award Program to build a prototype of ICD Coach in 2010. Chris Rumpf and Travis Jones of Raleigh-based Blue Brindle Software designed the prototype that served as the template for the final product, which was built by Greenville native and University of Pennsylvania freshman Brian Schroeder. Gunnar Swanson, associate professor of graphic design at ECU, designed the graphics. Dr. Tracy Tuten, associate professor of marketing at the ECU College of Business, provided expertise in social media.