From monitoring the heart’s rhythm to deciding on the choice of a heart stent, remotely monitoring the heart’s condition to seeking advice from a doctor in the virtual space in real time, the ‘New Normal’ in heart care will need us to change the way we understand healthcare. With the pandemic impacting millions of lives around the world, the healthcare industry is looking at the crisis as an opportunity to find solutions that will shape global societies of the future. COVID-19 also underlined the need to take a closer look at the many disease burdens we are already grappling with—Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) being one of them. The CVD burden has almost doubled in the past 25 years. The pandemic has brought to fore how those suffering from heart ailments are more at risk. On World Heart Day, let us take a closer look at the innovative solutions that are improving access to better diagnosis, and promising better patient outcomes in heart care.
“We are living in a world where lifestyles are swiftly changing, heart problems are becoming more complex and physicians need the latest technologies to provide the best care for their patients. That said, we are also in times when smarter imaging tools are helping us treat patients better. For instance, a tool like Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) gives doctors a clear vision of the blood vessel before a stent is implanted. For many years, doctors struggled to decide if the patient needs a stent or not. Technologies like Fractional Flow Reserve (FFR) are now helping us asses a blockage in the blood vessel better to take an informed decision,” says Dr. Shirish Hiremath (MS), Consultant Cardiologist and Director, Cardiac Cath Lab, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune.
What’s interesting is, that even though CVDs are also the leading cause of mortality in India, and account for 15% - 20% of all deaths in the country, cutting-edge technologies are helping us fight this burden. Not just smarter tools for diagnosis, we also have minimally-invasive methods like to open lesions or blockages in coronary artery.
The progress in heart care is not restricted to medical devices alone. Advanced remote-monitoring systems are playing a critical role in assessing a patient’s health, ensuring they have the access to treatments at the right time. And we are not only talking about the scope of wearables here. “New devices are allowing people to monitor health practically on a daily basis. There are apps that alert doctors about a patient’s health in real-time. We have devices to raise an alarm in case of a heart attack. While implantable pacemakers ,ICDs & CRT devices that share data with your doctors on a daily basis are increasingly being used, what’s new is the use of special remote devices that are implanted and can transmit all this information through your mobile phone using Bluetooth technology,” says Dr TS Kler, Cardiologist, Chairman at Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute (PSRI) Heart Institute, New Delhi.
While wearables and data analytics are playing their role, an important part of heart care is access to the doctor. The pandemic has brought many lives to a halt and visiting a doctor is not as convenient as it used to be until a few months ago. Times changed, and tough times call for smarter measures. “There is no need to go to the clinics anymore. We have portals and apps that connect patients to the doctors in real-time. You have services that offer a variety of health information and services at the same place. Telemedicine is bridging communication between patients and doctors across multiple therapy areas,” adds Dr Kler.
The need is to offer value-based innovative medical devices to patients taking healthcare beyond geographies and putting patients first. From remote monitoring technologies to understand the value of tools that optimise results of treatments like stent implants, COVID-19 has once again, highlighted the need for better innovations in heart care. It could be months before life returns to normal and patients are able to visit their doctors. When it comes to matters of the heart, one cannot take risks. Hence, the need to look at advanced ways of fighting the CVD burden. We must embrace the new technologies now, more than ever, to ensure the number of patients at risk is substantially reduced.
Padma Bhushan Dr. T. S Kler is a renowned cardiologist and is currently working as Chairman at PSRI Heart Institute, New Delhi.
Dr. Shirish Director of Cardiac Cath Lab at Ruby Hall, Pune, a renowned cardiologists of India has performed more than 40,000 angioplasties and over 100,000 angiographies.
(Views expressed are personal.)
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