It’s February 7thand the medical community is observing Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week sponsored by the American Heart Association to encourage awareness and education about congenital heart defects (CHDs). This week has been set aside to honor those born with a heart defect and all of the families and friends touched by children with heart defects. As participants of multiple CHD trials and validation studies lets discuss CHD challenges and solutions for rapid CHD detection.

According to the American Heart Association, about one child out of 100 births every year in the US is born with a CHD condition. This is due to a problem that happens as the child’s heart is developing during pregnancy, before the child is born. CHDs are the most common type of birth defects and people live with heart defects throughout their lives. As we all know, there are many types of congenital heart defects and the most common involve the inside walls of the heart, the valves of the heart, or the large blood arteries and veins carrying blood to and from the heart. Some of these heart defects require no treatment; however others require treatment soon after birth. Treatments which have many dependencies can include medications, catheter procedures, surgery, and sometimes heart transplants. Because cardiac diagnosis and treatment has greatly improved, more children are surviving and many CHD adults are living full complete lives. 

Regardless of treatment, detection and monitoring are key for managing CHD; the gold standard has been ultrasound echocardiogram, however recent clinical studies in India have validated that new EKG-enabled intelligent stethoscope technology can serve as a precursor to ultrasound echocardiogram for CHD detection and monitoring.

This new technology solution which integrates digital auscultation with EKG functionality and diagnostic imaging in the familiar shape and size of a stethoscope is called HD Steth.  HD Steth leverages digital health technologies to instantly detect and diagnose CHD. This represents a paradigm shift at the point-of-care setting.  Now medical professionals can instantly identify a patient’s cardiac condition, capture and share patient data, and identify cardiac defects in real-time improving patient quality-of-life.

Care for and monitoring of cardiac diseases is a major challenge for the health community. Currently thirty eight percent (38%) of deaths worldwide are attributable to cardiac disease and the associated cost of cardiac disease management is exceeding $1T per year. Exasperating the situation, the ratio of population to specialists is in the range of 10,000 to 1 creating challenges in making critical clinical decisions during the “golden hour” of a cardiac event.

Additionally, according to Dr. Nelson B. Schiller, MD, FACC, FRCP “Standardized auscultation tests given to medical students and fellows have found auscultation is either not taught well enough or students have difficulty learning it. Results show that only 30% of medical students tested are able to detect typical heart sounds and murmurs versus the internal medicine residents getting up to 40%, while Fellows reach into the 50 -60% range.” In addition, according to Dr. Paul Rosen in his recent HealthcareSuccess.com blog “At the medical school at Stanford University, 35 percent of graduating students are forgoing residency training and taking jobs in start-ups instead. The cultures they see outside of health systems resonate more with their values.” Also, according to Rosen “in the area of patient safety, over 400,000 deaths in hospitals are due to medical errors each year, making medical errors the 3rd leading cause of death in the Unites States.”

These challenges are being overcome with recent advances in medical imaging along with increased computational power and the advent of mobility, wireless and other technologies. This now allows patients to be treated and monitored more precisely and effectively and in ways that better meet their individual needs.

HD Medical’s latest auscultation technologies come at a perfect inflection point as healthcare is shifting and focusing on wellness and prevention rather than treating patients after an incident.