Listen to our latest episode in the ‘Health at Heart‘ podcast series featuring Dr David Steinhaus

< Back to all articles
Sunday February 27th, 2022

EKG: A powerful tool for preventative healthcare

As people live longer, but also with more long-term conditions, there is an increased demand for healthcare. The current healthcare system revolves around treating the symptoms of disease to help sick people recover. But what if we could use emerging health technology to catch illnesses earlier and reduce the severity of them?

For instance, when screening for asymptomatic, undiagnosed atrial fibrillation (AF), consumer-ready EKG technology could allow for earlier detection of the disease. This intervention allows appropriate medical precautions to be implemented that significantly reduce the risk of severe cardiac events, such as strokes and heart failure, while simultaneously reducing the need for in-person medical resources.

Last year, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) reported that over 5.1 million people were awaiting planned hospital treatment. Of those, 230,278 were waiting for invasive heart procedures or heart operations – the highest number since the pandemic began.

 

Everyday healthcare
Advancements in AI and Medical Technology are radically improving our ability to continuously collect and transmit accurate data on public health. In turn, this allows us to identify trends and predict risk factors, giving a greater measure of the impact of preventative care on both the health of individuals and of society as a whole. Wristwatches almost became a thing of the past with the introduction of smartphones. However, the integration of technology into wearable devices means that the wrist is once again becoming the place to go for data collection.

The concept of patients wearing medical devices to provide insight into their health and receive treatment is not new. Glucose-monitoring devices are crucial diagnostic tools that allow diabetics to self-regulate insulin medication without the need for input by medical professionals. Technology has the potential to improve the quality of healthcare by making it accessible to more people. Telehealth has the unique opportunity to make healthcare more efficient, better coordinated and closer to home.

 

Track and monitor
The recent implementation of contact tracing apps and social distancing tools to fight the spread of Covid-19 have proven how technology can be adopted on a wide scale by the general public to improve healthcare. Consequently, we are now witnessing a rapid shift in acceptance for using these tools to monitor our own health status.

Medical professionals can tell patients they need to eat better and exercise at their annual checkups, but they cannot follow patients around for the other 364 days of the year. Enter wearable technology, which allows healthcare providers to give their patients the ability to take control of their wellness, while still transmitting important health data back to the clinician.

The falling cost and mass growth of the medical-grade consumer devices industry are resulting in EKG wearable devices becoming a more cost-effective option of care every day. The global wearable technology market is expected to reach USD 118.16 billion by 2028, which would equate to an annual growth rate of +13.8% from 2021 to 2028.

One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. In this regard,  wearable devices with EKG functionality can detect cardiac abnormalities that relate to the function of a person’s heart outside of the hospital environment. Relaying the information back to clinicians would allow timely intervention that could save countless lives.

 

The Rise of Telecardiology
BHF estimated that there are at least 270,000 people aged over 65 with undiagnosed (or silent) atrial fibrillation in the UK. However heart disease doesn’t just happen to older adults, it is happening to younger adults more and more often.

 

“Unfortunately, many patients who succumb to cardiovascular disease had no warning that they had a potential problem before their death. At least half of patients who have heart attacks, therefore, do not have symptoms before their event. Similarly, many patients with the heart rhythm change known as atrial fibrillation only find out that they have the condition when they present with a stroke or heart failure.”

Dr Andrew Mitchell, Consultant Cardiologist

 

“Traditional risk factors such as cigarette smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure will help identify patients at risk of heart attacks. New digital health technologies will also help identify those at increased risk of death.” Dr Andrew Mitchell, Consultant Cardiologist 

The utilisation of telehealth continues to grow as tools become more widely available. Healthcare providers are starting to acknowledge the efficacy of the remote service and the patients’ desire to receive care in a hospital-at-home environment.

For patients with cardiac injuries, telehealth is becoming an increasingly important tool to allow them to manage their condition from home. Keeping on top of vitals measurements and symptom changes is essential for cardiac patients — telehealth helps them achieve these goals and ultimately avoids unnecessary emergency department visits.