The human heart symbolizes aliveness, vitality, and life itself. It’s also a goldmine for health data. As our hearts pump blood through our bodies, doctors can measure the pressure, oxygen levels, and speed of these beats. This data already gives doctors snapshots of our health, but what if we had access to these insights in real-time?
According to the World Health Organization, heart disease is the number one cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year and representing 31% of deaths worldwide. While most of these deaths can be prevented by addressing behavioural risk factors such as unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and harmful use of tobacco and alcohol, we know that this is easier said than done. Without access to the right support and lifestyle management programs, patients struggle to make these shifts alone.
As the rates of heart disease continue to climb around the world, could digital tools help increase access to sustainable, preventive health programs?
To deep dive into this question, we connected with Dr. Jordan Prutkin, MD who works as a clinical cardiac electrophysiologist and sees patients with a variety of heart rhythm disorders. Dr. Prutkin is one of the most experienced implanters of leadless pacemakers and subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) in the Northwest United States and shares how digital tools have transformed his practice over the last 10 years.
The future of heart health is digital
In our first clip, we ask Dr. Prutkin about the digital tools he uses in his practice, and how he has navigated the digital health market boom over the last year.
As Dr. Prutkin shares, the FDA approved AliveCor EKG device and even your Apple Watch can seamlessly collect valuable data and provide real-time feedback and insights about your health.
Inspired by this conversation, our team was curious what other devices we can expect to see in the next decade. Here’s a snapshot of some innovations, curtesy of Everyday Health, a great fact-checked health blog:
- Video-games for health - Researchers at the University of East Anglia in England, along with industry collaborator Evolv Rehabilitation Technologies, have come up with a virtual reality experience using video game technology to help stroke survivors regain their physical coordination. Rather than follow traditional rehab exercises, which tend to be boring or monotonous, the video game setting makes rehab more interesting.
- No Stress, Stress Tests - Traditional stress tests require a significant amount of physical activity creating barriers for patients with physical disabilities or the elderly. The HeartTrends app works by recording 20 minutes of your heart’s activity while doing normal daily tasks like sitting, eating, walking, and talking. Wearing a simple heart rate recorder, you get your data analyzed instantly. Currently, the app is designed for early detection of ischemia, a condition in which there is decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle.
- Fitness Fits - The 2020 Honoree of the CES Innovation Awards, FootWARE, is the first smart shoe to measure heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, stress level, and movement patterns. Eventually, the shoe will be able to monitor health conditions like peripheral artery disease, according to the company's website.
As more of these apps and products enter the market, doctor’s roles are also expanding as they try to keep up with consumer expectations.
We ask Dr. Prutkin how we need to be thinking about how we incorporate all the data and insights coming in from patients, and the policy gaps that exist to ensure patients are protected.
What are the challenges ahead?
While many of these conversations are focused on the individual, the larger obstacle for digital health will be the systems adoption challenge ahead. In our last clip, we discuss how data management systems have evolved in healthcare, and the challenges ahead for innovators navigating legacy EMR infrastructure..
As we’ve learned throughout our futures series, collaboration is key to helping us validate these technologies. A recently published editorial in the Journal of Cardiology shared that despite the abundance of digital health solutions in the general consumer market, few of these solutions are designed or tested for clinical settings or developed with stakeholder involvement.
At Bowhead, we want to create more opportunities for these stakeholders - patients, providers, and payers - to share their perspectives on the future of healthcare and help co-create patient-centred digital solutions.
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