21 September 2021
On World Heart Day, 29 September 2021, the World Heart Federation (WHF) is calling on the international community to bring digital cardiovascular health services to millions worldwide in order to decrease mortality from the world’s biggest killer. COVID-19 has seen an explosion in telemedicine, with a 40%1 jump in the world’s richest countries. WHF believes this digital transformation presents a pivotal opportunity for millions living with cardiovascular disease from lower income backgrounds who have little access to in-person consultation.
CVD claims the lives of 18.6 million people per year and 520 million people living with CVD have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
WHF is calling for equity across healthcare, and for the rapid development in digital care to reduce inequalities by transforming the diagnosis, prevention and management of CVD in lower-and middle-income settings.
Currently only 20%2 of the population in lower income countries is online. WHF is calling for operators to fund and develop the infrastructure to reach disconnected hearts everywhere; governments to prioritise digital infrastructure and heart health in policy; industry to keep prices of tech affordable; and telecoms service providers to collaborate with them to bring digital medicine to some of the world’s poorest communities across the globe.
“Never before have we seen such a ‘techceleration’ in cardiology,” says Fausto Pinto, President of the World Heart Federation. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform the lives of millions of people who are left behind in healthcare today. We should use digital health to scale up and speed up prevention efforts and save lives and millions spent on care.”
From online consultations, to simple Electrocardiograms (ECGs), blood pressure monitoring, to virtual surgery, the web has opened new possibilities to cardiovascular care for millions. As with all rapid digital transformation, there are challenges. For healthcare, top concerns are data privacy, technology compatibility and the need for human contact. According to WHF, co-designing programmes with patients will also be critical.
Adrian Lovett, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, which campaigns for equal access to the internet and a web which is fair for all, says “While telehealth technologies could be a game-changer for the world’s health, there’s a huge digital barrier keeping billions out of this system. Almost half the globe lives without a basic internet connection and many more people lack the technology they need to use digital healthcare services. To fully unleash the promise of the web to improve treatment and protect lives, leaders must invest to expand internet access to everyone.”
World Heart Day is supported by leading pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly Alliance, and Pfizer.
Joris Silon, Senior Vice President, Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolism BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit at AstraZeneca said, “At AstraZeneca we are focused on developing and delivering life-changing medicines and solutions for the millions of people affected by cardiovascular disease by fundamentally transforming care for the millions of people with cardiovascular, renal and metabolism diseases. We know just how important it is to collaborate with others who share our vision to accelerate this change and deliver innovative solutions.”
He continued “Working with digital health innovators we are harnessing the power of digital and data science to speed the discovery and delivery of new medicines and optimise support for patients throughout their health journey. Never has there been a more important time to engage with organisations like the World Heart Federation.”
Waheed Jamal, M.D., Corporate Vice President and Head of CardioMetabolic Medicine, Boehringer Ingelheim said, “The pandemic drove the uptake of digital solutions much faster than expected. It is now crucial to increase the use and scope of telemedicine to include disease awareness and facilitating patient access to medical care. As for the longer-term outlook, it will be critical to improve cardiovascular disease prevention by addressing various risk factors such as diabetes and chronic kidney disease, accompanied by a holistic approach to patient care.”
Suneet Varma, Global President Pfizer Rare Disease, added, “We must continue advancing technology to help shape the future of equitable access to healthcare. This is particularly true for rare and lesser-known conditions, such as transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, where digital connections can improve awareness, education and access to information and care.”
The general public is encouraged to get involved in World Heart Day by joining the conversation across social platforms using the hashtag #UseHeart.
The World Heart Federation is hosting a Heart to Heart debate, bringing together leading cardiologists, digital experts and journalists in a high-level panel to discuss how digital can transform the future of cardiovascular healthcare globally.