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Home » Cardiology » How AI-powered heart monitor tech ‘can improve diagnosis’

Professor Charles Knight

Consultant Cardiologist, Chief Executive, London’s St Bartholomew’s Hospital

Ambulatory cardiac monitoring powered by AI technology is more comfortable for arrhythmia patients. It also provides clinicians with better data for a definitive diagnosis.

If you have suspected cardiac arrhythmia — an abnormal hearth rhythm which is either too fast, too slow or irregular — you may be given an ambulatory electrocardiogram (ECG) to wear for around 24 – 48 hours. These traditional ECG monitors, holters, record the electrical activity in your heart so your clinician can diagnose if you have an arrhythmia. The benefits of this device is that patients can go about their everyday activities while it records the electrical activity in their heart.

Wearable tech provides clearer data

Yet this technology can pose a challenge to clinicians, notes Professor Charles Knight, Consultant Cardiologist and Chief Executive of London’s St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Continuous and reliable data is needed for a definitive diagnosis; but because this type of monitoring is only carried out for a relatively short period, it may not provide enough information. “There are also issues of patient comfort and discretion with conventional, rather cumbersome (ECG) recording devices,” he says.

A clear and definitive diagnosis provided promptly is better for the patient and saves the NHS money.

However, more modern cardiac monitoring powered by AI technology may prove to be a better option. This includes wearable patches, like Zio by iRhythm, which can be continuously worn for up to 14 days, even in the shower or while exercising. Professor Knight argues that this type of innovation is “more acceptable to patients, more comfortable and, because they are able to be used for a longer period, they can provide a definitive diagnosis of palpitations in greater numbers of patients.”

Clear and definitive diagnosis

It may also reduce the burden on the NHS by providing a more definitive and rapid diagnosis to improve backlogs and reduce waiting times. “Although most palpitations are mild and not a threat to the patient’s health they generate much anxiety,” explains Professor Knight. “Some patients may have multiple visits to GPs, specialists and emergency departments for what are non-life threatening symptoms. A clear and definitive diagnosis provided promptly is better for the patient and saves the NHS money. For patients in whom atrial fibrillation is detected, treatment with prompt anticoagulation saves lives, avoids strokes and vastly reduces the call on NHS resources.”

Unfortunately, adoption of new technology within the NHS isn’t always easy. “The NHS is a large and complex organisation which can be difficult for new technologies to infiltrate,” says Professor Knight. “Historically the NHS has focused more on upfront costs than the much greater longer term health and financial benefits of some new technologies. A national accreditation system for new technologies would be a big help so that they can be adopted faster and more widely.”

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