Digital Health

Tech Gets to the Heart of the Matter

Overview Physicians are some of the most sophisticated consumers of information and are often among the first to encounter the continuous advancement of tech. Cardiologists have been both apprehensive and excited about the potential use cases of digital health tech.

American College of Cardiology (ACC) Executive Vice President Brendan Mullen attributes the growth in heart disease cures and progress in treatment to the steady advancement of technologies and innovations that doctors have incorporated into their care.

But like other tech consumers, physicians — and in particular, cardiologists, whose primary objects of focus are more sensitive than most — are still figuring out how they can use technology to help patients with heart disease live more comfortably, and even prevent heart disease.


Cardiologists Embrace Tech Wholeheartedly

In the past, technological advances in medicine had often been cleared by a federal agency, and doctors would be able to reference peer-reviewed literature and trial-based studies that ensured confidence in new tech. However, in the past few years, the proliferation of technology has changed the landscape.

“Technologies are often coming from the consumer space into medicine,” Mullen said, “and [doctors] are struggling with how to make sense of that (without clinical studies) and often look to the ACC and each other to make decisions that are best for the patients.”

The medical community has had to adapt to rapidly embrace new technologies and discover how to apply tech appropriately in medicine. But because missteps in cardiology can lead to severe consequences, and people’s lives often dependent on the technologies, doctors still have had to approach and understand new tech from a risk-averse standpoint.

“Technology can be used to change the trajectory of health for patients, but we need to make sure we’re fulfilling medicine’s oldest motto, ‘first do no harm,’” Mullen said.

At this point though, Mullen said, the digital health aspect of technology has advanced far beyond driving patients’ awareness of their health and the potential of tech.

“I think we’re much more ambitious than that,” Mullen said. “We actually think these technologies have transformative potential. And I think they have transformative potential in cardiology first.”

If the technology enables the human aspect to be more meaningful, then I think we’re all winning.

Brendan Mullen
Executive Vice President, American College of Cardiology

Tech Helps in Understanding the Heart

Though the heart is an intricate organ, a simplistic way of viewing it is as an electromechanical device, from which we can measure pulse waves. Current devices such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit are already equipped to sense and analyze heart rate information. Unlike molecular, genetic conditions, heart diseases may be preventable in the future because of technology — even tech that is already available — that detects atrial fibrillation or other dangerous heart problems.

Sensors paired with artificial intelligence could be able to catch early heart failure indicators by quickly analyzing a large volume of information.

Mullen highlighted the game-changing nature of technology that might soon be able to monitor blood pressure all day, as many cardiovascular diseases and mortality are associated with blood pressure conditions.

In turn, this technology could help prevent urgent hospital visits and large medical bills, and it could change the way physicians approach individualized care.

Tech Can Help Rehumanize Medicine

From telehealth and remote care to the growing availability of data collection on a patient, technology allows physicians to spend less time documenting information and more time interacting with their patients.

As technology creates efficiencies in data collection and routine tasks, doctors are then able to care for their patients.

“Technology doesn’t hold people’s hands. Technology doesn’t have empathy,” Mullen said. “Technology will actually rehumanize the field [of medicine].”

Often questions about a patient’s day, recent stressors or life events can open a door to diagnoses that may otherwise be missed. The trusting relationship with a physician also increases the likelihood that patients will take their medication and heed their physician’s advice about exercise or other life changes.

“If the technology enables the human aspect to be more meaningful, then I think we’re all winning,” Mullen said.

Listen to Brendan Mullen speak on the CES Tech Talk podcast with Proctor and Gamble’s Lisa Ernst.

You May Also Be Interested In ...

CES 2020 Trend: Tech for Personalized Health Care

Read more arrow-black

Making AI Part of Health Care

Read more arrow-black