Intermountain researchers build app to keep tabs on advanced heart failure patients

Hospital says 8 percent more patients using the app were alive after 180 days than those not using the software, which alerts clinicians when heart failure conditions become more advanced.
By Bernie Monegain
11:14 AM
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Intermountain app for heart failure patients

Intermountain Healthcare researchers have created a new app to monitor heart failure patients and identify when their condition becomes advanced. 

The app monitors medical tests and health status and quickly alerts clinicians that the heart patient’s care needs have changed. When computer monitoring indicates a patient likely has advanced heart failure, the app automatically sends a secure email to the patient’s doctors along with recommended therapy and relevant information.

Tracking this can help clinicians decide appropriate treatments, which in turn helps to boost the patient’s quality of life and also longevity.

A multidisciplinary team of Intermountain Healthcare heart clinicians, medical informatics, and home health specialists developed the application. 

During the testing phase, researchers found that it led to significantly improved detection of disease advancement. Intervention patients’ survival rates increased, for example. More intervention patients were alive compared to a control group at key intervals: 30 days, 95 percent versus 92 percent; 60 days, 95 percent versus 90 percent; 90 days, 94 percent versus 87 percent; and 180 days, 92 percent versus 84 percent.

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“We found that clinical decision support can facilitate the early identification of patients needing advanced heart failure therapy and that its use was associated with significantly more patients visiting specialized heart facilities and longer survival,” the researchers wrote in in the Journal of Cardiac Failure.

More than six million Americans have heart failure. That results in an array of symptoms that include fatigue, shortness of breath, swelling, and a fast or erratic heartbeat. 
“Heart failure is progressive, and when it becomes advanced, standard therapies are no longer adequate and quality of life plummets,” said study lead author R. Scott Evans, Medical Informatics director at Intermountain Healthcare and a professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. “The sooner advanced heart failure is diagnosed and patients begin to receive advanced, specialized treatment, the better they tend to do.”

Frustrated by seeing patients with heart failure weeks or even months after their symptoms progressed, cardiovascular specialists from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute teamed up with technology experts to create a computer program that would monitor heart failure patients to determine when they need advanced care.

Evans said the advanced heart failure specialists used their own clinical expertise, along with 2013 American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association criteria for advanced heart failure, then worked with informatics experts to create and refine three algorithms the computer could apply as it monitored patients daily.

When computer monitoring indicates a patient likely has advanced heart failure, the app automatically sends a secure email to the patient’s doctors along with recommended therapy and relevant information.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com