St. David's HealthCare
September 01, 2020

AUSTIN, TEXAS—Physicians with the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute (TCAI) at St. David’s Medical Center are testing a new lifestyle intervention program and digital health platform for patients with atrial fibrillation (A Fib), the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia. The program, which features an app that is linked to wearable devices, is designed to enable early detection of A Fib, as well as improve management and clinical outcomes for patients with A Fib.

“Digital monitoring allows us to better serve our patients by helping them follow prescribed plans, such as diet and exercise, to improve quality of life,” Andrea Natale, M.D., F.H.R.S., F.A.C.C., F.E.S.C., cardiac electrophysiologist and executive medical director of TCAI, said. “Physicians can also receive alerts if patients experience abnormal heart rhythms, such as A Fib.”

The digital monitoring program being studied allows physicians to identify patients who are at risk of A Fib and develop intervention plans, including recommended lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of recurrence, before and after a cardiac ablation procedure. Cardiac ablation is used to destroy small areas of heart tissue that are causing abnormal heart rhythms.

The RFMx digital monitoring platform being used in this study includes wearable devices to continuously track health data from willing patients. The platform integrates the data to create a Health Scorecard based on information obtained from the wearable devices that is transmitted monthly via remote monitoring. It is designed to educate and support patients in a variety of areas, including diet, exercise, stress reduction, sleep, smoking cessation and alcohol reduction.

“Every participant is different, and the challenges they face are unique,” Dr. Natale said. “For example, patients who are overweight are placed in nutrition and exercise programs, and their goal is to achieve at least a 10% decrease in body mass index.  Digital health platforms can measure these changes.”

Doctors use telemedicine, web-based analysis, email, mobile phones, apps, text messages, wearable devices, and clinic or remote monitoring sensors (weight scales, blood pressure cuffs, etc.) to track patients’ progress. Medical experts can intervene with health coaching for high-risk patients, if needed. The program also provides patients with community support for encouragement and accountability.

TCAI is currently testing the digital monitoring program on approximately 40 patients.

A recent study revealed early intervention to maintain a normal heart rhythm is associated with reduced mortality and reduced cardiovascular complications in patients with A Fib. Results of the Early Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation for Stroke Prevention Trial (EAST) were presented at the European Heart Meeting and published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Aug. 29.