Reading the Signs: How Wearables, Continuous Monitoring, and Artificial Intelligence Are Shining New Light on Cardiac Risk

Updated on March 18, 2024

Sudden cardiac death accounts for a massive 300,000 to 400,000 deaths annually in the United States alone. For many patients, it is the first manifestation of a cardiac condition. For others, like nearly half of the country’s population, cardiovascular disease is diagnosed before it becomes a catastrophic event—but these diagnoses most often come after major symptoms have already emerged. 

Providers understand that quicker, more timely diagnoses lead to better patient outcomes—not only in the cardiovascular specialty but in every area of medicine. But earlier interventions hinge on better diagnostic technology. Cardiovascular diagnostics have reached a digital tipping point that will enable a new era of proactive, data-driven interventions. 

The Anatomy of a Cardiac Diagnosis

Developing heart disease is often a gradual process, with various contributing risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and a family history of heart disease. These risk factors can contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to a narrowing or blockage of blood vessels supplying the heart. While blood pressure and cholesterol measurements often shed some light on cardiac health, they don’t provide the whole picture, and they fail to surface ‘low-risk’ patients who suffer from latent cardiac conditions. 

For most patients, a heart disease diagnosis begins after symptom onset—shortness of breath, chest tightness, left arm pain, and more. But these symptoms only emerge after the cardiac condition itself has advanced. Research tells us a significant portion of individuals may have subclinical or asymptomatic heart disease. Because these individuals are asymptomatic, they ‘fly under the radar’ and are not subject to the traditional diagnostic tests—stress tests, echocardiograms, and others.

To improve patient outcomes and ultimately reduce the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease, we must find a way to reveal the asymptomatic cases. Through cardiac wearables, continuous monitoring, and artificial intelligence, clinicians can finally reveal what has long been hidden. 

The Power of Wearables, Continuous Monitoring, and AI-Enabled Analysis

Recent strides in wearable technology, continuous monitoring, and AI-enabled analysis have addressed the persistent issues that kept robust cardiac diagnostics out of mainstream primary care. 

Lightweight, comfortable, and easily worn under clothing, modern cardiac wearables reduce critical challenges related to patient non-adherence. Complex and obtrusive, their predecessors were not willingly adopted by patients—particularly those not even experiencing cardiac symptoms. 

These wearables transmit data continuously and in near real-time, overcoming standing challenges related to the acuity and comprehensiveness of data. In the past, event-based, episodic monitoring limited a clinician’s ability to see a full picture of the heart, particularly the portion of cardiac data that occurs outside of a major event.

Finally, AI-enabled analysis addresses the challenge of feasibility head-on by enabling massive amounts of cardiac data to be absorbed and analyzed instantly. AI-enabled analysis provides granular insight that was not feasible or practical using manual approaches. This includes the ability to incorporate population or patient-specific nuances into cardiac diagnostics.  

These technologies are powerful in theory but truly transformative in practice. Let’s take a closer look at how they enabled earlier intervention for a real patient. 

Saving Lives, One Device at a Time

Patient Dan O’Bryan was experiencing dizziness and lightheadedness in the spring of 2021. He didn’t think his symptoms were concerning, but upon surfacing them at a primary care appointment, Dan’s doctor decided to order a battery of tests. These diagnostics did not indicate a reason for Dan’s dizzy spells, but his provider persisted and recommended a virtual cardiac telemetry test to shed more light on Dan’s cardiac health. 

The portable cardiac device continuously streamed Dan’s cardiac data to an online portal, surfacing key insights to the clinical team using built-in FDA-approved AI. While Dan did not experience a major event, the solution detected a pause in his heart rate. Dan’s clinical team promptly intervened, implanting a pacemaker that would prevent a life-threatening event. 

Dan’s story is like so many others—a story of mild symptoms, hidden signs, and the life-saving opportunity to do more. 

Shining the Light on Early Indicators

What will happen when, like Dan’s clinician, we use technology to shine a light on the earliest, most nuanced indicators of cardiac disease? The impact will be truly transformative—with sweeping implications for care quality, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness. 

Let’s take a closer look at the clinical benefits.

  • Enhanced Diagnostic Accuracy: The benefit of virtual cardiac telemetry goes beyond earlier interventions—it actually supports more robust and accurate diagnoses. With the ability to rapidly and comprehensively analyze high-acuity data, particularly those nuances that occur outside of an event, clinicians can achieve a more comprehensive understanding of each patient’s heart health and more effectively distinguish between ‘like’ conditions. 
  • Lessened Disease Severity & Complications: Addressing the root causes of cardiac disease and detecting it in its earliest stages helps prevent complications and catastrophic events like heart attacks, heart failure, and severe arrhythmias. These often require costly interventions to treat, and worse, can be fatal to the patient. In cases of surgical interventions, the availability of high-acuity data can significantly reduce readmissions. 

But the benefits are not just clinical, they are also financial.

  • Reduced Healthcare Costs: By focusing on early detection and intervention, providers can potentially reduce the massive collective cost of heart disease, including the need for costly surgical procedures and hospitalizations. Heart disease and stroke are among the most expensive healthcare conditions due to their high occurrence and complex nature, costing the U.S. healthcare system $216 billion per year. Heart failure also consumes a significant amount of Medicare dollars, with total costs for heart failure care estimated at $34.8 billion. According to one study, a 90% delivery rate of primary preventive services could reduce these expenditures by $53.9 billion.
  • Support for Value-Based Models: Over time, continuous cardiac monitoring and AI-enabled analysis will powerfully support healthcare’s shift to outcome-based models. Virtual cardiac telemetry not only enables earlier interventions to improve patient experience and outcomes; the rich data provided by this technology can also be directly used to enhance healthcare’s understanding of risk and demonstrate a provider’s efforts to more proactively intervene.

Reading the Signs, Starting Today

The signs of cardiac disease are there, and they always have been. But now, the technology has finally arrived to bring them into the light. With convenient cardiac wearables, continuous monitoring, and AI-enabled analysis, providers can step confidently into the future of cardiac care—a future in which cardiac health is more fully understood across the patient population, even when there are no outward symptoms at all. 

InfoBionic is proud to be a part of remote cardiac monitoring’s revolutionary transformation. To learn more about how its FDA-cleared technology is supporting better patient care, visit www.infobionic.com

Stuart Long
CEO at InfoBionic

Stuart has been the CEO of InfoBionic since March 2017. He underscores the company’s commitment to widespread market adoption of its transformative wireless remote patient monitoring platform for chronic disease management. With more than 25 years of experience in the medical device market, Stuart brings expertise in achieving rapid commercial growth. Before joining InfoBionic, he was CEO at Monarch Medical Systems, LLC, and global chief marketing and sales officer for CapsuleTech, Inc. Stuart also held executive positions at healthcare IT-focused companies, including Philips Healthcare, Agfa Healthcare, AMICAS, FUJIFILM USA, and Eastman Kodak in addition to his previous clinical experience of managing acute care, non-invasive cardiology.