Few things are changing as rapidly as technology. While we see this in our daily lives (often in the form of the latest phone or a cutting-edge watch), new advances in technology are also revolutionizing the field of medicine. Many of the advances are designed to be in the hands of health care professionals, but an increasing number are designed for the use of individuals who wish to participate in tracking their personal health.

Health apps

Apple made famous the saying, “There’s an App for that,” and there’s an app for medicine too—many of them. Mobile applications are available to calculate the risk of heart disease and to help individuals participate in determining the need for new or different medications.

The American College of Cardiology has developed an app that gives members of the cardiovascular care team access to animated images to illustrate heart conditions or procedures to aid in explanation and discussion with patients.

Medication applications help with calculation of dosages and look for interactions between various agents. Most practicing physicians, nurse practitioners and others carry multiple mobile applications on their phones or tablets to improve patient care.

Wearable fitness devices—such as those on the wrist, are gaining popularity.

Tech procedures

Technology has also revolutionized the performance of complex cardiovascular procedures. TAVR, or transcatheter aortic valve replacement, is a procedure where a faulty heart valve is replaced with a small tube that travels from an artery in the leg or chest to the heart. This often provides a safer option for patients who are too fragile for traditional open heart surgery but is expanding into use in patients at lower risk.

Stents, which are metal mesh tubes inserted into the arteries of the heart to relieve blockage causing a heart attack or severe chest pain continue to evolve in safety and utility. Drug-eluting stents are coated in medication that can help reduce scar tissue from developing in the artery. Newer, bioabsorbable stents dissolve over time and are being evaluated for the potential of further reducing complications and improving outcomes.

Wear your health

Wearable fitness devices—such as those on the wrist, are gaining popularity. These can track parameters such as physical activity, heart rate, calorie consumption and sleeping patterns. Information from the devices can be easily shared with medical professionals for a more complete picture of health habits, complementing the information normally gleaned in an office visit. Long-term monitors worn on the skin for weeks or injected under the skin (for months or longer) can monitor heart rhythm irregularities.

These are but a few examples of devices and software designed to leverage advancements in technology toward the goal of improved health. While exciting, it remains incumbent on us to continually evaluate their safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness and avoid adoption simply on the basis of novelty.

Technology will continue to surprise us as it pushes the boundaries on what we thought possible. Thoughtful caregivers, including the members of the American College of Cardiology, will continue to develop, evaluate and adopt technologies that save and improve lives by preventing and treating heart disease.