Computer app alerts physicians to patient's risk of advanced HF

An extensive computer app developed by researchers in Salt Lake City, Utah, could significantly improve both the quality and longevity of cardiac patients’ lives by preemptively alerting clinicians to advanced heart failure symptoms.

The application, created by informatics specialists, home health experts and clinicians at Intermountain Medical Center, was successfully reviewed in a study published this month in the Journal of Cardiac Failure, according to a release from IMC. Researchers found that when the app was activated, intervention patients’ survival rates rose—a phenomenon owed to the fact that the app monitors a patient’s health status and alerts that patient’s primary physician or specialist when advanced heart failure symptoms arise.

“Heart failure is progressive, and when it becomes advanced, standard therapies are no longer adequate and quality of life plummets,” lead study author R. Scott Evans, MS, PhD, said in the release. “The sooner advanced heart failure is diagnosed and patients begin to receive advanced, specialized treatment, the better they tend to do”

Evans said it’s hard for doctors to remain up-to-date with not only a patient’s out-of-hospital progress, but also the ever-growing body of research about heart failure. This difficulty, coupled with the fact that heart failure patients often aren’t monitored every day, leads to gaps in care that could cost a patient their life.

“Plus, no single test says the disease has progressed, and often patients don’t end up in advanced heart failure clinics when they should,” Evans said.

The computer program monitors heart patients’ hospital and ER visits, lab tests, use of diuretics, technological assistance like left ventricular support and data from electrocardiograms, according to the release. That mined data is applied to three algorithms the computer uses to calculate advanced heart failure risk in individual patients.

When the computer detects possible complications, it automatically sends an alert email to the patient’s doctors, including cardiologists and primary care physicians. That message contains the data that triggered the alert—like results from an EKG or a trip to the emergency department—recommends therapies for that patient and includes phone numbers and links for heart failure specialists doctors can recommend.

If necessary, Evans said, a doctor can discontinue alerts for any given patient, but so far that’s been rare.

“No one’s asked to be removed because it’s a nuisance or not valid information,” he said. “Instead, more patients were directed into advanced therapy, where their condition and longevity improved compared to the control group.”