The Heart Health Conundrum: Digital Health And Behavior Change

BY GRACE MOEN FOR BAYER

Heart failure costs Americans $30.7 billion each year in treatment, medications, and missed work, making it the most expensive condition to treat. Despite these major impacts, heart health can easily go overlooked, often for years.

There are few obvious warning signs of plaque build up -- until a major event occurs. Traditional treatment involved prescribing a pill and sending the patient on their way. This left adherence and data gaps so big one could drive a truck through them. Today we recognize that true healing is made possible by engaging an ecosystem of health. Often this does include a pharma approach, but crucially, it also includes biometric data, often captured via remote monitoring via a wearable sensor.

The inconvenient truth is that 25% of Americans die every year from heart disease (CDC). The rates are higher globally with 30% of all global deaths attributed to heart disease (WHO). That’s 17.9 million (mostly preventable) deaths every year. It’s no wonder that scientists and innovators are diligently looking for new solutions, with digitally-fueled systems paving the way. A study recently published in JACC: Cardiovascular Imagingfound that “an mHealth diagnostic strategy using point-of-care devices, including pocket echocardiography and smartphone-connected ECG, blood pressure and oxygen measurements, was associated with a shorter time to definitive therapy and improved outcomes among patients with structural heart disease.”

 

One-third of people with Thrombosis will experience a recurrence within 10 years (CDC). For them and others at risk, the ability to track their heart rate is a life saver. Apple’s recent study alongside Stanford University and EKG sensor AliveCor proved able to detect irregular heartbeats. Not only that, but the watch sends alerts and is able to provide contextual data to physicians. While preliminary, the study represents a shifting value towards holistic data as well as a move towards sensors as medical grade devices. Using movement, sleep, step, heart beat data, and more, the resulting report paints a Venn Diagram picture for patients who are learning how their activity and lifestyle overlaps with their heart health.  

 

Patient monitoring is all well and good, but it doesn’t function successfully in a vacuum. Behavior change is the nut everyone is trying to crack and it is never taken more seriously than with cardiovascular diseases. Lifestyle factors associated with high blood pressure and high cholesterol - smoking, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity - are the leading cause of heart disease; and they are all entirely preventable. Of Diabetes, Dr. Eric Topol, Cardiologist and Author, has said, “seeing your glucose every minute on your phone, it really changes your lifestyle. You ask yourself, 'Do I really need that piece of cake? No, because I don't want to stress out my pancreas.” The same principle - that access to your own biometric data leads to healthier decision making - can be applied to heart health as well. 

 

Perhaps the greatest opportunity within cardiovascular prevention and treatment today is Artificial Intelligence. AI is already showing faster and more accurate atrial fibrillation diagnostic rates than human diagnosis (Forbes). The more data, the better outcomes, and hopefully a future of healthier hearts. 

Grace Moen