Elliott-Antman-M_D_-239x300Scientific researchers and healthcare professionals must transform emerging technology and big data into innovative ways to help patients, American Heart Association President Elliott Antman, MD, FAHA, said Sunday during his Presidential Address at Scientific Sessions.

Antman cited several examples of groundbreaking science that are already putting technological and innovative advances to work in his address, “Saving and Improving Lives in the Information Age.”

He also urged more innovation in the fight against heart disease and stroke — the two leading causes of death in the world.

“We now have tools at our disposal that we could barely imagine only a few years ago,” said Antman, professor of medicine and associate dean for Clinical/Translational Research at Harvard Medical School and a senior physician in the Cardiovascular Division of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“New diagnostic and therapeutic options are being discovered at a pace unseen in human history,” he said. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to harness these advances to save and improve lives.”

Antman told the story of one of his own patients — a 67-year-old man who was referred for evaluation of heart palpitations — to illustrate technology’s lifesaving possibilities.

Antman prescribed a heart-rhythm monitoring device so the patient could take readings using an attachment to his smartphone case and email the results to Antman. He quickly diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation and formulated a treatment plan.

Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, greatly increases a patient’s risk for stroke and affects 33.5 million people worldwide. Antman, an expert in AFib, led the research team that last year published results of a study on the anticoagulant edoxaban’s effect on preventing stroke, as well as a larger analysis on the effectiveness of the three newer oral anticoagulants.

He detailed the history of such drugs to show that innovation is needed. Warfarin was essentially developed by chance, he said, while the development of alternative anticoagulants was costly and took many years.

“Obviously, we can’t rely on either method to find effective new therapies,” he said.

While looking ahead, Antman also looked back at some important history. The American Heart Association was founded 90 years ago by six cardiologists at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.

“They started this lifesaving organization just four miles away from where you’re sitting now,” he said. “Yet, it was worlds away when you consider what we can offer patients today.”

Using an electrocardiogram to illustrate his point, Elliott compared a handheld device like the one he used to treat his patient to a bulky 28-pound wooden box that contained the ECG machine used by Paul Dudley White, one of the six founders of the American Heart Association.

He also referenced the organization’s founders while making a major announcement — the first funded researchers in the groundbreaking Cardiovascular Genome-Phenome Study, also known as CVGPS. The study is built on the big data of numerous studies, including the Framingham Heart Study and the Jackson Heart Study.

“They are building the future on the power of the past and are following in the footsteps of the American Heart Association’s founders in a bold and novel way,” he said.

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