In 2009, 25,000 Taiwanese kids in first, fourth and sixth grades were screened and 292 were diagnosed with heart problems. More than 60 percent of the problems had been unknown before the electrocardiogram testing.
This type of screening for kids in the U.S. has been proposed in the past, but cost has always been the primary deal breaker.
"There is no doubt that screening programs in children identify cardiac problems and save lives," said Patterson.
"The only argument against [it] is based on cost...there is no doubt that such programs would be extremely expensive...it could cost about $1,000 to screen each child."
But Higgins' research offers hope of a more cost effective way of screening kids.
The heart screening used by HEARTS involves a short questionnaire on patient history, a physical examination targeted at heart health, an EKG and a 5-minute modified echocardiogram.
The whole screening takes 15 minutes, Higgins says, and only costs $150 per patient.
But even so, the price of a nationwide pediatric heart screening program would be considerable. Some doctors say it may not be the best use of health care dollars.
"We are not good enough at screening to make this routine," said Dr. Brian Olshansky, director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at the University of Iowa. He says that screening will cause some kids to be identified as needing treatment -- even though any heart abnormalities they have may be harmless.
In these cases, "an intervention would actually create more harm than good," he said.
Dr. Barry Love, assistant professor of pediatric surgery at Mount Sinai, agreed, saying, "finding the very small number of children who would have died suddenly...has the unintended consequence of excluding a large number of children from healthy sports participation."
"We already have an epidemic of obesity and sedentary lifestyle in this country. Screening would make this worse," Love said.
Dr. Steve Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, doesn't feel that Higgins' screening would be wise to apply widely.
Instead, he favors physical exams to try to "uncover the subgroup with a high likelihood of abnormalities [for] further diagnostic testing."
Experts do agree, however, that something should be done about pediatric heart health.
"[Even] if the cost is prohibitive, the problem doesn't go away," Patterson said. "We need to find cheaper ways to screen children for heart problems, especially for low-income families where heart risk is highest and access to medical care is lowest."
Dr. Douglas Zipes, editor in chief of HeartRhythm, says that even with an imperfect, costly system, the potential to save children's lives makes screening worthwhile.
"I don't think you can put a dollar sign on young lives," Zipes said. "Even if it is inefficient and costly, it should be done."
And the parents of children who will gain a new lease on life and longevity as a result of Higgins' work would agree.
"It's a great thing that we have this technology and we are able to screen kids," said Shana Harvey, Madelinne's mother. "It's such a blessing that we were able to catch this."