Key Takeaways

I recently cared for a patient in the ED who was having chest pain. She was a mother of three children who woke up one morning with a discomfort that became stronger over the course of the day. She went to an urgent care center where she was found to have a rapid heart rate of 120 beats per minute. In the ED, we diagnosed her with atrial fibrillation (AFib) and — through medical intervention — we were able to control her heart rate and discharge her back home the next day. 

As she was getting ready to leave the hospital, she asked me what she should do to stay healthy and manage her condition going forward. Thankfully, I was able to set her up with an outpatient cardiologist, and she went home with a remote monitoring device to detect any future occurrences of her abnormal heart rhythm. 

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) like AFib are the leading cause of death worldwide, claiming millions of lives annually. Managing cardiac conditions — from hypertension to heart failure (HF) — requires precision, consistent monitoring, and timely interventions — most of which have been costly and difficult to implement prior to recent advancements. 

Fortunately, digital health innovations have emerged as powerful tools in improving care management for cardiac patients. Let’s explore how digital health is transforming cardiac care, offering patients and healthcare professionals new opportunities to proactively manage CVDs and support better outcomes.

The burden of cardiovascular disease in the U.S.

The CVD category encompasses multiple complex conditions. These include coronary heart disease, heart rhythm problems, heart valve conditions, and heart failure. 

They top the country’s leading causes of death for men, women, and most racial and ethnic groups. CVDs are particularly commonplace among aging populations. Nearly 78% of men and just over 75% of women ages 60 to 79 have one. Among those ages 80 and above? That number surges to 90%

These figures aren’t only concerning for the wellbeing of our patient communities. They also represent significant costs for the entire healthcare system. In the U.S. from 2018 to 2019, the total of direct (e.g., disease-specific medications) and indirect (e.g., lost productivity) costs due to CVDs exceeded $400 billion

And as more and more Americans experience these chronic conditions, the need for more robust and streamlined care management programs becomes more urgent.

The challenges facing cardiovascular disease care management

Despite CVDs affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, managing these conditions remains challenging for even the most seasoned care teams.

One barrier to supporting patients with CVDs is the prevalence of comorbid conditions in this population. Roughly eight out of 10 aging adults with a CVD have at least one other chronic disease. As people face unexpected illnesses, they might need careful treatment adjustments and more frequent visits with multiple specialists to get a handle on snowballing health issues. This can demand more thorough care coordination from clinicians and more time dedicated to navigating care from patients.

Treating an individual’s CVD while accounting for other chronic illnesses and inherent conditions requires a complex and rigorous care plan similar to addressing comorbidities — one that involves continuous monitoring, strict adherence to prescribed medications, and consistent screenings. 

Although managing CVDs presents multiple obstacles, there have been some promising findings when it comes specifically to self-care management for HF patients. A systematic review  of approaches to HF management found a link between effective HF self-care management programs and reduced hospitalizations. 

But, successfully empowering patients to manage their CVD conditions requires effective patient-provider partnerships that encourage communication, understanding treatment plans, and continuous monitoring. With outdated care management systems that rely mostly on telephone outreach — and increasing volumes of patients with chronic conditions — establishing these relationships outside of the hospital is becoming more difficult. 

Luckily, emerging digital health platforms offer hope for a solution.

Scaling digital care management with AI-backed technologies

Nascent technologies that bridge care gaps and assist patients through complex care episodes have the potential to unlock new, more efficient methods for managing CVDs. Intelligent care enablement — scalable technology that supports both patients and care teams through complex clinical episodes to more efficiently deliver personalized, proactive, and coordinated care — has been shown to positively impact organizations in supporting their cardiac patients. Here's how:

1. Improved remote patient monitoring

Digital technology has enabled remote monitoring of cardiac patients, reducing the need for frequent clinic visits. Wearable devices, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers that are equipped with heart rate and ECG sensors, allow patients to track their vital signs regularly. 

These devices transmit real-time data to healthcare providers, enabling early detection of irregularities or worsening conditions. Remote monitoring not only improves patient convenience, but also helps doctors make more informed decisions, potentially preventing complications. 

Despite these benefits, keeping track of remote transmissions can be burdensome for clinicians. One study found it took between nine and 14 minutes on average for care team staff to process each remote transmission from devices such as implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. 

That’s why Memora Health’s intelligent care enablement platform goes a step further by integrating with remote monitoring devices to store and deliver insights from the resulting data within a care team-facing dashboard. By providing clinicians with the most relevant trends and learnings from remote patient data, it’s easier to keep a pulse on patient statuses and understand any emerging concerns within the context of their individual care journeys.

2. Personalized treatment plans

CVDs include various conditions. And each type of CVD — and each patient — requires slightly different treatments. For instance, an individual just diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia might be given a beta blocker, whereas someone with a more advanced CVD might need invasive surgery.

Population characteristics also have a part to play. For example, the severity of CVD-associated symptoms and mortality rates generally differ significantly between men and women in the U.S. Recent research has also pointed to differences in CVD frequency and variations between subsections of larger ethnic groups, such as Asian Americans.

That’s why some digital health innovations leverage patient data to deploy personalized treatment-related assistance. Memora Health’s platform collects demographic and other background data to deliver a CVD care journey that is tailored to the needs of each specific patient. In addition, Memora’s conversational AI technology uses natural language processing to understand the context within which patient questions are asked to provide tailored responses. This personalized approach ensures that treatment strategies are adapted to individual needs and can be adjusted as patient conditions evolve. 

3. Medication adherence support

One of the key challenges in cardiac care is ensuring patients adhere to their prescribed medications. There’s a lot on the line for sticking to treatment regimens. For instance, one study found a 12% decrease in all-cause mortality associated with a 20% improvement in cardiovascular medication adherence.

Unfortunately, the reality is that most CVD patients deviate from their medication plans. Studies have found that many patients only adhere to their medication regimen 60% of the time. 

There are several obstacles people face when trying to stay on course. For example, half of patients over 79-years-old take more than five different prescriptions for chronic conditions — meaning more medication schedules to juggle and remember, while posing the risk of unforeseen interactions. When we consider other common barriers to accessing important medicine — such as lack of transportation and financial constraints — it becomes clear that people generally need better assistance with maintaining treatment guidelines.

Digital health applications offer medication reminder features that notify patients when it's time to take their prescriptions. Additionally, some forward-thinking platforms provide educational content about the importance of medication adherence, helping patients understand the benefits of compliance. As an added benefit, Memora Health’s technology is built to surface helpful resources patients can leverage to access their treatments if they encounter obstacles — such as free or affordable transportation options.

Learn how one oncology unit used Memora Health’s platform to improve medication adherence.

4. Automated healthcare triaging

Some digital health solutions can automate a variety of routine care delivery aspects, such as answering questions about medication side effects and post-procedure experiences.  

But unexpected and concerning scenarios can arise, too. For example, chest pain, irregular heartbeats, and sudden episodes of dizziness or fainting might be caused by worsening or newly developed conditions — such as cardiac arrhythmia. And if they go untreated or unaddressed, they could prove fatal. 

What can digital health technology do to support patients and their clinicians in these circumstances?

Realistically, such cases require human, clinical intervention. Memora Health’s platform is equipped with specific triaging parameters that help it notify care team members when it receives alarming messages from patients or, in some instances, recommend an ED visit right away. Since providers have access to a longitudinal view of every patient’s recorded care journey, they can swiftly collect the information they need to manually check in with individuals and provide the best next steps. 

Cardiac conditions are complex — and healthcare organizations need the right tools to help patients manage them. By adopting intelligent care enablement technologies, providers can extend better assistance to their patients outside of the four walls of the hospital and empower them to take more control over their health.  

Ready to see what intelligent care enablement can do for your organization? Speak with one of our experts!