By Romualdo Segurola, MD, FACS
Technology is changing nearly every facet of our lives – from the way we connect, to how we get information, and manage our homes, finances and families.
It’s also transforming cardiac care for patients and doctors alike. While our patients are better informed about their health, physicians are able to diagnose heart conditions faster even when we are not seeing our patients in a clinic setting. Technology evolution has also allowed for minimally invasive techniques that are making surgery safer and easier on patients.
Here are a few ways that technology is advancing cardiovascular medicine — and ways it can help improve your heart health:
1) Fitness trackers and phone application (apps) can encourage, empower and educate you about your heart health.
Fitness trackers, heart rate monitors and health-related apps help patients become more aware about how their daily habits, movement, diet and lifestyle impact on their health. These devices not only track daily activity, blood pressure, heart rate and sleep patterns, but also provide useful analytics. Seeing daily or weekly results and progress can be a huge motivator to help individuals stick to healthy habits.
New apps also educate patients about heart conditions, signs and symptoms to watch out for as well as provide heart-healthy food recipes. For example, some heart attack survivors use the American Heart Association’s app to help as they navigate their recovery.
Knowledge is power, and all of these tech tools help put information into our hands so we can make better-informed choices.
2) Wearable devices and apps can be used to detect heart rhythm irregularities.
Some wearable devices can help to spot and track heart rhythm irregularities, including Atrial Fibrillation (also known as AFib), a condition where people experience irregular heartbeats that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
While doctors and electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) machines can detect irregular heartbeats, a patient must be at a doctor’s office or connected to a machine when it is happening for it to be detected. Many times, by the time a patient gets to their doctors office or an emergency room, the cardiac episode has passed.
But now, many wearable devices can take an EKG reading and provide the information through an app on a cell phone. This allows patients to get an EKG reading precisely when they are experiencing symptoms and share the information with their doctor. These tools help us physicians diagnose, treat and catch heart problems before they get worse.
3) Minimally invasive surgery makes cardiac procedures safer and less painful.
Technology has also made vast improvement in the way we perform cardiac surgery procedures. Heart surgery used to be performed by opening up someone’s chest, which required large incisions, and led to a painful and long recovery.
Now, many cardiac procedures can be performed using minimally invasive techniques. Minimally invasive procedures generally take less time and lead to less scarring, less blood loss, a lower risk of infection, less pain and a shorter recovery.
As a cardiac surgeon, there is no greater feeling than performing a surgery on a patient to correct a heart condition and see them sitting up, walking and feeling better the next day.
Dr. Romualdo Segurola is the chief of cardiac surgery for Jackson Health System, medical director for Jackson Heart Institute, and medical director for cardiothoracic surgery for Jackson North Medical Center and Jackson South Medical Center. He is leading the Jackson Heart Institute, which brings together two of the most trusted names in the community to form Miami’s most comprehensive heart team. To learn more visit MiamiHeartLeader.org or call 305-585-4564.