With the world on fast-track to tech adoption, especially after the experiences of the past 2 years, the healthcare ecosystem is now more efficient, intelligent, and convenient than it has ever been. Smart machines allow us to stitch together an overall therapeutic approach, essentially taking up routine tasks to enable quality doctor-patient time. Cardiac imaging technology, data management systems and x-ray machines outperform humans in numerous ways.
But how did cardiology reach this stage? It has taken the industry years to reach here. To a point where Artificial Intelligence (AI) does not only help doctors with precise diagnosis but also enable them on the surgical table. A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has stated that exciting, new emerging technologies, have made MIS (minimally invasive surgeries) even more efficient, and safe for patients.
This, all famously started when the English physician William Harvey studied the heart’s anatomy as early as 1628. Around 300 years later, Dutch physiologist Willem Einthoven invented the first electrocardiogram (ECG) to measure electrical activity in the heart. We also saw open heart surgeries in the 20th century.
A complex issue
Cut to 2021, healthcare is a lot smarter. However, we are also witnessing the scale of problems rise. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the number one cause of death globally, leading to roughly 18 million deaths a year. The Global Burden of Disease states that nearly a quarter (24.8 %) of all deaths in India is due to CVDs. For perspective, Covid-19’s total global death toll was 4.5 million as of August this year.
Heart disease and the complexities associated with it present numerous challenges. There often exist a number of subtypes of disorders, each requiring their own form of therapy. This makes it crucial to make correct diagnoses.
The tools at hand
MedTech has shown us the path to manage any of the hurdles we are faced with head-on. With the power of artificial intelligence in healthcare, we can use data to make accurate and confident diagnoses. Instead of setting x-ray parameters manually, experts automate the process when dealing with patients experiencing a stroke or a heart attack. Valuable time is hence, saved. Powerful imaging technologies enable detection of varied Cardio vascular problems and empowers the clinician with accurate decision making support during an interventional procedure. Not long ago, AI was being used to predict cardiovascular risk via eye scans.
We are seeing intelligent information systems integrate elements like patient data, analysis, and physician reports to reduce administrative workload. Indian healthcare saw tests often done crudely in the past but now performed with a higher degree of precision. Many people still believe that the only way to treat multiple arterial blocks or replace a valve in the heart is through an open-heart surgery but the healthcare ecosystem is now built with efficient tools and techniques for transition from Open Hearts to Minimally Invasive procedures. Highly advanced cath labs today enable Interventions like complex angioplasties, total occlusions, valve replacements to be performed intravenously with lower risks and better patient outcomes.
Medtech solutions are also built keeping the clinician and his staff’s ease of use and safety of most importance, hence technology today allows reduced radiation exposure risk and ergonomic benefits that would help build a stress free and safe environment for the clinical teams to perform such complicated procedures in high volumes in our country. It provide experts with a safe, state-of-the-art, and reliable platform to perform intricate procedures.
Precision technology is making it possible for doctors to offer personalised care decisions rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach. This method does a better job of offering populations and individuals tailored medical interventions depending on their medical condition, environment, genetics, and physiological factors. It is undoubtedly the future of medical care.
Moreover, multi-modal approaches that strengthen the ecosystem for precision health & technology are the need of the hour. Cardiac imaging and diagnostics have made important contributions to the emerging field of individualised cardiovascular precision medicine. Cardiac imaging has a central role in its diagnosis and etiological work-up. Given the large array of imaging modalities, as well as structural and functional parameters, devising a diagnostic strategy that provides diagnostic accuracy without wasting resources can be challenging. Especially for patients with heart failure, it combines medical intervention with various diagnostic tools (like ultrasounds and CT scan) and tests like IVDs. Thus, developing an overall patient view for heart specialists to manage heart health with greater ease and accuracy.
Keeping patients first
Patients are at the centre of MedTech’s advances. The role of technology in creating better patient outcomes is vital at a time when people of all ages have been known to experience conditions like, say, heart failure. Around 1% of Indians suffer from the disease, which results in symptoms like physical weakness, rapid, irregular heartbeats, and shortness of breath. However, developments like smart textiles (with in-built sensors) are improving prognosis and sending out timely warnings.
While the pandemic did impact timely treatment of existing CVD patients, it has also impacted the quicker adoption of innovations like AI and ML in healthcare along with telehealth. The key is now to empower the clinical team with the right technology for the right treatment.
A wider view
On World Heart Day, it is imperative to give the movement for cardiac health more traction. Cardiac screenings or testing groups of healthy people for specific signs of disease or abnormality before such signs develop into cardiology, could ensure prevention. Although diagnosis takes place later, early detection via screenings gives clinicians the chance to increase the odds of successful treatment.
As diseases mutate and transform, MedTech too will evolve further. Precision healthcare, smart machines and real-time insights are just some of the reasons why patients and clinicians can take heart in the fact that better outcomes are in store.
Dr Shravan Subramanyam, President & CEO, GE Healthcare India & South Asia and Managing Director, Wipro GE Healthcare writes on ‘Heart of the Matter: The Evolution of MedTech in Cardiology’ on the occasion of World Heart Day today.