Cardiac Problems and Informatics

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Icon of heartbeat on a computer screenMore than 26 million American adults, or 11.3 percent of the population, have been diagnosed with heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sadly, heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans, claiming about 611,000 lives every year. But the field of health informatics is helping professionals in the health industry detect heart disease early, treat it better, and minimize risks. Find out some of the ways health informatics developments are solving cardiac problems.

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) Reveal Link Between Heartburn Drugs and Heart Attacks

The study of health informatics concerns the design and development of technologies, including the electronic medical records (EMRs) used in health care facilities across the world. Originally, health informatics professionals created these systems to help health care facilities run more efficiently, but a study reported by NPR in June 2015 found EMRs can also help health professionals identify drug side effects.

Medical researchers analyzed about 3 million EMRs, searching for a link between proton-pump inhibitor medications used to treat heartburn and heart attacks. Researchers found that taking these types of drugs increased the risk of heart attacks by approximately 16 to 20 percent, depending on the specific medication prescribed. While this figure is a relatively small increase for someone with a low risk of heart attacks, the findings could be significant for people at a higher risk.

Sharing Big Data Improves Understanding of Cardiovascular Disease

Obtaining information about cardiovascular disease can be costly and time-consuming. To lessen the burden, more research centers are pooling their resources and sharing data. Government-funded agencies and journal publishers are curating and archiving descriptive epidemiological data and imaging data so research centers can use it for a range of cardiac studies.

Through the sharing of big data and comparing of information, the IEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics reported in July 2015 that researchers are learning more about cardiovascular function, methods of treatment of cardiac disease, and how cardiac disease progresses.

Wearable Devices Could Increase Early Diagnosis

All too often Americans don’t realize they have heart disease until they’re in the emergency room. Wearable devices that monitor the body could help change that.

Health informatics experts are creating wearable devices fitted with sensors that monitor a user’s heart rate, blood pressure, and the heart’s electrical and muscular functions, much like an electrocardiogram (ECG). The devices collect and analyze the data to determine whether the wearer has ordinary cardiac function. Thanks to flexible biosensor developments, these wearables can be comfortably worn for an extended period and during a range of activities, making them an effective way of monitoring any changes in health.

In 2014, IEEE Life Sciences reported the development of a watch-style blood pressure monitor, an eyeglass-style device for measuring heart and pulse rates, an ECG necklace, and an h-Shirt for heart rate and blood pressure monitoring. Wearable devices such as these and others that follow them should ease the strain on America’s health system and improve patient outcomes by detecting and diagnosing heart disease earlier.

Heart disease accounts for one in four American adult deaths, but with advances in health care informatics, the future looks more optimistic for people living with cardiac problems.

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