The buzzwords in healthcare sector are “wearables” and “smartphone apps,” but a New York startup, Heartbeat, believes while these are important, face-to-face consultations between physicians and patients are still invaluable.
Heartbeat’s approach is to open health clinics for patients, who are at risk of heart disease and other chronic ailments, while at the same time employing technological innovations. The company has a digital and clinical hybrid solution combining, a tech-driven risk assessment and “cardiac diagnostics to hone in on patients’ heart problems and determine individualized plans.”
Preventative solutions could be next wave in healthcare
One of the company’s founders, Jeffrey Wessler believes proactivity is the best approach in cardiology he “wanted to figure out whether we could go from a reactive to proactive state. To me, that’s really the next wave of where healthcare is going.”
Wessler describes this approach as “preventative cardiology.”
The startup’s objective is to treat at-risk patients before they develop chronic conditions or need urgent interventions for serious health issues. Heartbeat says the health care system was not designed for patients to engage in preventative healthcare, an opportunity they decided to seize.
While technology can reduce patients’ costs significantly, Wessler insists that “we really needed the doctor’s eyes and touch.”
Heartbeat seeks to fill gap in healthcare
In an interview earlier this year, Wessler again reiterated the importance of physicians interfacing with patients, arguing that while digital health was “simple, fun, visual with great user experience,” the drawback was lack of clinical visits by patients. “To me, this gap gets closed by bringing the clinical experience up to the same standards as our digital health solutions,” he said.
To that end, Wessler and other Columbia trained cardiologists and engineers, data scientists and patient experience specialists came together in 2016 to set up Heartbeat Health.
Heartbeat, which has raised $2.5 million, in venture funding, has already opened two clinics in New York has plans to open two more soon.
The company uses data generated by wearables such as Fitbit or Apple Watch and also administers an online questionnaire that asks patients about their health, eating habits, and whether there is a history of heart problems in the person’s family. These tests are submitted prior to a patient’s clinical visit for a cardiovascular assessment.
When a patient visits a Heartbeat center, they undergo a series of examinations, taking tests for blood pressure, heart rate, EKG, and cardiac ultrasound.
“But Heartbeat also offers specialists, who provide sustainable nutrition and exercise plans, which customers can review online at any point, as well as physicians to sift through patients’ Fitbit or Apple Watch heart rate data,” a report said. Heartbeat says it will also help patients correctly interpret data generated by wearables and will also prescribe diets and physical exercise routines to monitor the cardiovascular health of patients.
Patients can pay for Heartbeat’s services through health insurance, an annual fee of $299, or by paying $200 per visit.
A company with a similar approach, Forward, which seeks to pre-empt medical issues, has already received rave reviews, with Time magazine describing the concept as one of the best innovations of 2017. Forward monitors cancer risks, using different genetic tests for possible preventive diagnosis.
The high cost of cardiovascular disease
In January 2018, Heartbeat began testing its approach with a “cohort of more than 2,000 people, and has now opened its clinics to the public,” CNBC reported.
The company says from this cohort of 2,000 young professionals who were assessed for risk factors for heart disease, one in 10 were smokers, about 50 percent of those had a history of heart disease in their family, a third were overweight and a quarter of those suffered from high cholesterol.
Heartbeat also said a third of the cohort suffered from high blood pressure, one in two suffered from anxiety or stress, a tenth had diabetes, and 10 percent drank significant amounts of alcohol.
With such insights, the company hopes that in the next 5 to 10 years, it would have compelling evidence showing a reduction in heart attacks and strokes among its patients.
More than 800,000 people die annually in the U.S from cardiovascular disease and the company said that 1.5 million strokes and heart attacks occur annually. The New York firm also estimates that a combined $555 billion has been spent on healthcare costs and lost productivity for heart disease and stroke since 2015.
Want more news about cardiovascular innovation? Read Healthcare Weekly’s interview with Dr. Simon Stertzer.