A growing, ageing population, rising levels of chronic disease coupled with escalating costs and complexity – this trend requires a rethink of every aspect of healthcare, not least cardiology. Despite a reduction in heart disease mortality, cardiovascular disease causes 36% of all deaths. Improved survival rates are also expected to increase the number of patients with heart disease, adding pressure to already pressured health systems.
However, technological innovations and opportunities to improve processes and faster decision-making can help tackle the challenges of tomorrow, today.
Efficient care is better care
Cardiologists, like other medical staff, struggle managing abundant data, growing documentation requirements and disconnected systems, multiplied by increasing pressure to get patients home sooner, reducing readmission and most importantly improving patient outcomes.
Finding better ways to increase efficiency across healthcare can address this challenge. So called hospital Command Centres – imagine an air traffic control – can help address capacity, quality and patient wait-time. By constantly processing data from multiple hospital systems and applying artificial intelligence, a Command Centre generates predictive analytics to help staff recognise patterns in real-time and predict what will happen in the next 24-48 hours.
Hospitals in North America and UK are already using Command Centres. Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore were able to treat 8% more patients with the same resources (beds and staff), while reducing waiting time for a bed in the emergency department by 23% and congestion after surgery by 70%. There are now 51 hospitals in the US, UK and Canada with similar results.
To further improve processes a Digital Twin can be created to virtualise the hospital and create an environment in which to play “what if?” to e.g. improve utilisation of operating rooms (OR). A Belgian academic hospital implemented a Digital Twin simulation model across multiple areas including OR inpatient bed capacity and imaging. They managed to increase day surgeries by 30% and scan 3000 more patients per year.
The earlier, the better
Early diagnosis of disease is believed to improve patient outcomes. Dr Niels Vejlstrup has a treatment plan for a child with heart disease – before its even born. “In rare cases, there is a possibility to treat the heart condition in the womb,” he said. Vejlstrup, a cardiologist at Rigshospitalet, uses Voluson™ ultrasound to diagnose heart disease prenatally, so that optimal conditions can be secured early on.
Vejlstrup explained that before using prenatal diagnosis, heart disease was diagnosed after delivery and the child could often be born in a hospital lacking the expertise needed. The result: a very sick baby had to be transported between hospitals, not only causing a traumatic experience for the parents, but also a potential danger for the child.
With today’s technological developments, we can ensure that a child with a serious heart condition is delivered in a hospital with the right expertise and with the parents knowing what will happen beforehand.
Diagnosing correctly, faster
CT (computed tomography) is an increasingly important diagnostic tool to create detailed images of the heart and arteries. With a dedicated cardiac CT scanner, cardiology departments can speed up diagnosis and meet the increased demand in cardiac imaging. After implementing the CardioGraphe™, a dedicated cardiac CT, Dr Jonathan Leipsic from St. Paul’s Hospital, Canada said they could see up to 30 patients a day – twice as many patients compared to previously.
Furthermore, with a CardioGraphe CT, clinicians can image the whole heart in just one heartbeat with a total exam time of less than 15 min. This allows them to quickly and confidently rule out heart disease or put the patient on a treatment plan, right away. The machine’s rapid rotation also reduces the need for medication to lower the patient’s heart rate – this is more cost-efficient and helps minimize the risk in conducting the exam. With this technology, more scans can be performed with better quality, improving the patient journey
Cardiology is but one key care area. New technologies and better use of already available data offer the same promises and results in oncology, emergency care and other hospital disciplines. I am excited to see where the coming years will take us.