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Digital Health Summit: Inaugural Event at Heart Rhythm 2019

Interview by Jodie Elrod

Interview by Jodie Elrod

In this interview, we learn more about Heart Rhythm Society’s (HRS) first-ever Digital Health Summit taking place May 8, 2019 at the upcoming 40th Annual Heart Rhythm Scientific Sessions in San Francisco, California. EP Lab Digest speaks with Nassir F. Marrouche, MD, FHRS, Chair of the HRS’s Digital Health Working Group and Chair of the Digital Health Summit.

Why is the Heart Rhythm Society focusing on digital health? What are some of the most exciting or promising advances today in digital health technologies for electrophysiology? 

Digital health technologies in relation to the management of our patients with heart rhythm disorders are advancing rapidly. Consumers and patients now have easy access to biometric data, including the ability to detect abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Partnerships between digital health technology companies and healthcare providers are essential to ensure the earlier diagnosis and treatment of patients with chronic arrhythmias. Our community applies more biosensors in and on the human body than any other clinical specialty. HRS aims to take a leadership role in convening the right stakeholders and offering guidance in how to leverage digital health for the benefit of our patients.

In what ways have advances in digital health impacted the EP practice? 

Digital technology and medicine have collided with an explosion of new health tech for diagnosis, disease management, and data. There is a growing awareness and increasing expectation by our patients for access to transparent and secure healthcare data. Plus, as digital health tech continues to become more ubiquitous, both opportunities and challenges arise. HRS members are now providing more guidance than ever, such as recommendations about safely sharing and exchanging data with patients, as well as how to navigate patient-generated data from consumer wearables, apps, and other tech.

Why is it important for healthcare providers to adopt digital health? What do you think are some of the current challenges to adoption of digital health by healthcare professionals, hospital systems, and patients?

Advancements in digital health will lead to faster diagnosis, improved access to critical data, and support for disease management. HRS members generally have been early adopters of these new technologies – in fact, many are already partnering and offering their expertise to consumer tech, medical device, imaging, and pharma companies to bring new innovations that streamline care and empower patients. Our challenges include the lag in reimbursement for digital health adoption into practice, as well as the private practice or a hospital system’s ability to be operationally ready to accept the increased communications and interactions with patients and the vast amounts of data their devices generate.

What changes or advances in digital health do you see on the horizon? How do you anticipate this will change the field?

I believe the most powerful change coming our way is artificial intelligence (AI), and this change is already happening. Therefore, the question is how the EP community and beyond will prepare for this influx of tools and data. In today’s practice, many physicians still wait for lab results such as ECG analysis, but this model is not working anymore, especially with new AI infrastructure. Our patients are asking, why can’t I use my smartwatch or app to generate and monitor my data? New digital health technologies are being created faster than we have ever seen before. For example, implantable technology placed in the eye or below the skin can gather all kinds of biometric information, including ECG data, etc. The goal of our Digital Health Summit is to get people talking about this and get everyone involved. Things are moving quickly — with venture capitalists, patients, innovators, and physicians all involved — so the timing is perfect for us to start studying and confronting these important advances.

What prompted the need for the Digital Health Summit? Tell us about the creation of this event as well as your collaboration with the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA).

About two to three years ago, HRS and EHRA discussed how quickly digital health was integrating with medicine, but that adoption had been slower than other industries. Yet, advancements in digital health all centered around the cardiovascular and heart rhythm space. We wanted to take the lead, and offer education and information to our global membership and their patients. Healthcare providers are looking at how to best adopt digital health and understand what’s on the horizon, and they need a mechanism to share best practices. Hence, we decided to launch the Digital Health Summit at the 40th Annual Heart Rhythm Scientific Sessions.

What will be some of the specific digital health technologies to be discussed at this summit? 

There will be discussions on remote monitoring, implantable cardiac devices, consumer wearables, mobile apps, and AI, as well as overall themes related to processes, policy, data management, and partnership with patients/caregivers as well as with tech innovators.

Why was it also important to include a session on building a successful digital health company? 

HRS has historically had a unique relationship with industry. Many of our members have designed and created the innovations we now use daily and continue to partner for the development of new technologies. There is an entrepreneurial spirit within our community; navigating start-ups and supporting their trajectory is in our DNA and of interest to our attendees.

Tell us about the various panelists that will be presenting at the summit. How was faculty chosen?

We will have a diverse group of change agents and thought leaders, with representatives from all stakeholder groups. Moderators and panelists include patients, academic and private practice clinicians, HRS and EHRA leadership, industry pioneers, FDA, CEOs, CMOs, and other key opinion leaders that are currently shaping the dialogue on digital health and bringing digital tech to medicine.

Why should people attend the Digital Health Summit? What do you hope to be the main takeaways of this event?

We hope that anyone interested in the connection of digital health and cardiovascular electrophysiology will attend. The annual Scientific Sessions draws more than 12,000 attendees, including healthcare providers and industry representatives from around the globe. We also hope to draw interest from the local Bay Area tech industry by encouraging new partnerships between tech companies and healthcare providers.

HRS will also release a Digital Health Strategies document during the Summit to provide guidance to the EP community on how to best navigate the new paradigm in digital health and its relationship to improving the delivery of patient care.

How many attendees are expected to attend? Do you foresee the Digital Health Summit becoming an annual event?

On average, the 500-1,000 will attend a summit at our annual meeting. This is the first year for the Digital Health Summit, but given the rapid evolution of digital health and emerging opportunities, we anticipate it becoming a staple at our Scientific Sessions. We also hope to establish digital health summits at global science and education meetings with our professional society partners. HRS will partner with EHRA in hosting a digital health summit at their congress in 2020.

What else can attendees expect at the upcoming 40th Annual Heart Rhythm Scientific Sessions?

This year will be special as we are celebrating the Society’s 40th Anniversary and the 40th Annual Heart Rhythm Scientific Sessions. More than 800 of the world’s most noted experts in cardiac rhythm management will serve as faculty for more than 200 educational sessions covering topic areas such as pacing, defibrillation, clinical arrhythmia management, ablation, pharmacology, genetics, basic science, health policy, and more. Guy Raz, world-renowned journalist, correspondent, and podcast creator with over 14 million listeners, will serve as our Opening Plenary Speaker as he explores the history of HRS and the field of electrophysiology. Programming highlights include a new Emerging Therapeutics Summit, the ever-popular AFib Summit, Heart Rhythm Quiz Bowl, Live Cases, and Late-Breaking Sessions. This year’s meeting is not to be missed. 

For more information, please visit HRSsessions.org.

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