Over the last years, digital technologies and approaches to treating patients with heart diseases progressed rapidly. We’ve sat down with cardiologist electrophysiologist and Teltonika Telemedic researcher Justinas Bacevičius M.D. to discuss the essential developments in the field of cardiology and the upcoming medical smartwatch HorizonOneTT.
J. Bacevičius has been probing into the field of cardiology for a number of years. He undertakes the role of the medical doctor in Vilnius University Hospital Santaros Clinics, one of the key medical institutions in Lithuania. The doctor performs modern interventional procedures for patients with arrhythmias after which they can usually return to normal life in a few days. He also works closely with the team of Kaunas Technical University (KTU), focusing on creating novel mHealth tools for the diagnosis of heart rhythm disturbances.
DEMAND FOR TELEMEDICINE SOLUTIONS IN CARDIOLOGY
As heart diseases continue to remain the leading cause of death at the global level, the need for new technologies has emerged. According to J. Bacevičius, telemedicine and remote monitoring devices can help to mitigate problems the doctors and patients are facing nowadays.
Calls for telemedicine solutions in the industry echoed for many years, and the COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be a spark to shift focus right here and now since there was reduced accessibility to the actual services. It is expected that telemedicine would provide more convenient and better accessibility of the services as well as more detailed diagnosis of diseases, enabling individualized treatment. Also, the opportunities of telemedicine can lead to high-quality monitoring of post-surgical patients or those who are at increased risk.
“Wearable devices are subject to exponential development. In addition, they also start to gain acknowledgment of doctors and regulation by responsible authorities. The official European Society of Cardiology guidelines for atrial fibrillation now contains recommendations for the use of wearables in diagnosis of the arrhythmia. Thus, there is co-existence of the creative potential of technologies together with the competence and qualitative attitude of specialists. During the latest annual congress of Lithuanian Society of Cardiology, I had an opportunity to present the advantages and disadvantages of existing technologies, and it would be fair to say that there is a growing interest in modern technological solutions”, - says J. Bacevičius M.D.
GROWTH OF REMOTE PATIENT MONITORING
Over the last decade the field of electrophysiology has rapidly developed, and it largely influenced the growth of remote patient monitoring and wearable devices.
In upcoming months Teltonika Telemedic will release the ground-breaking medical smartwatch HorizonOne that will offer a unique combination of diagnostic features for atrial fibrillation detection, a condition that can lead to stroke, heart failure and other consequences. The doctor, who has been leading the research into the medical functionalities and testing of the smartwatch, has revealed how the need for this smartwatch emerged.
“The technological solution of our smartwatch was born intuitively from everyday practice. To put it simply, the problems of non-specific complaints from the patients and the absence of objective information about heart rhythm have been existing for a long time yet specific treatment decisions have to be taken in order to help a person. That‘s how the need to address this problem has emerged“, - commented J. Bacevičius M.D.
Even though the device has so far been tested in a validation trial, a number of patients may benefit from it in everyday clinical practice. E.g., in cases of unclear weakness or palpitations which occur rarely and is unlikely to be documented with Holter ECG monitoring. In addition, another involved cardiologist R. Jakaitė M.D. said the quality of unobtrusive wearable ECG was greatly comparable to conventional one, recorded with ECG cables. She had a great impression of the device and plans to propose it to her patients when it is cleared by regulatory authorities.
CHALLENGES UPON THE RELEASE OF SMARTWATCH
Cardiologist J. Bacevičius reveals that the development of the smartwatch involved research of the needs of doctors and users themselves. “First of all, some large-scale screening studies have demonstrated the feasibility of photoplethysmography-based (PPG) algorithms to check for arrhythmia. On the other hand, according to current European Society of Cardiology guidelines PPG is not enough to diagnose atrial fibrillation and requires additional testing with substantial resources. Thus, there is also a demand for a device high-quality electrocardiogram, sufficient enough to confirm the diagnosis. Both of these methods are available in our device. Another functionality is concerned with the user-friendliness and attractiveness of a device that can meet not only the needs of a professional but also of a common user. We aim to realize all functionalities within this product“.
The conducted in-hospital trials with patients wearing HorizonOneTT has already demonstrated great output, as overall accuracy of atrial fibrillation detection accounted for >99%. The smartwatch is almost set for a release. Until then, the final step that needs to be done is the obtainment of medical approval that accounts for the highest quality standard.
“The immediate and key goal of a completed product is the performance validation to obtain the medical certificate for CE marking. It is a rather complicated process, and a lot of resources have been allocated to deal with it. The rising strictness of requirements corresponds to the class of a device. However, medical certification is not just a necessary legal obligation for healthcare specialist to take a clinical decision when using modern technology solutions. For a common user, it also stands for a universal guarantee of top quality, even if he uses it for personal purposes“, - says J. Bacevičius.
The cardiologist believes that very soon, we will be able to enjoy more virtues of modern technologies in medicine: “I really believe in the future of technologies. The life sciences industry sector is already growing exponentially, and it is, to a large extent, directly or indirectly connected to medicine. Such growth ensures massive explosion of technologies and unprecedented opportunities to provide state-of-the-art services“.