Heart Failure? There’s an App to Prevent That!
For Rio Vista resident Robie Williams, hospital stays were becoming a regular part of her life last fall. Every month, the symptoms of her heart failure and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) would flare and she would end up in the hospital where caregivers would work to get her excessive fluid buildup and breathing issues under control.
The program is called Kencor. It’s a remote digitally based monitoring system developed by Kencor Health with the help of a Beta testing program at NorthBay. A mobile application on a patient’s smart phone is Bluetooth-connected to a digital scale and blood pressure cuff. Each morning the patient opens the app on their phone, steps on the scale and takes their blood pressure. The data is collected and transmitted back to NorthBay’s Heart Failure Clinic where caregivers can review it and reach out to the patient, if changes in their care plan are needed.
“Then, last November, someone came by my room and said there was a program they thought could help,” Robie recalled. “I was all for it. I mean, NorthBay Medical Center is a great hospital and the nurses there are great, even the food is good, but I don’t want to spend all of my Thanksgivings and Christmases in there!”
“The app allows us to text back and forth with the patient or call them up and talk about what we are seeing in the data,” explained Dana Gill, N.P., who works with the patients in the program. “We can change their care plan as needed, or maybe it’s just directing them to drink more water or cut down on their sodium or something like that.”
Commonly called congestive heart failure, it occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. Certain conditions, such as narrowed arteries in the heart (coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure, gradually leave the heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently. It is characterized by shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness, swelling of the legs, ankles and feet, and belly swelling, among other symptoms. The health care costs associated with the disease exceed $30 billion annually in the United States. The goal of the Kencor program is to prevent patients from having to be repeatedly hospitalize
“It includes an algorithm that calculates the patient’s risk of readmission,” explained cardiologist Milind Dhond, M.D., medical director of Cardiology Services at NorthBay. “It’s first-level artificial intelligence and that’s the future, really. There are already things like getting an EKG on your smart phone and so big tech getting into science and medicine is just the way things are progressing.”
What’s more, it’s working, said Dr. Dhond.
During a pilot study of the program involving 30 patients, NorthBay saw a 40 percent reduction in hospitalizations among patients using the Kencor app and devices.
Robie said she isn’t surprised by the results of the pilot project and research. She’s experiencing the success of the program first-hand.
“It’s working. I’ve lost 10 pounds and I would say that 95 percent of the reason for that is because I know I’m going to have to step on that scale and Dana is going to know what I’ve been up to,” she said with a laugh. “I am a fan of the program. I think it’s wonderful. It makes it so I’m able to stay out of the hospital more than I’m in it.”
Dana says Robie is not alone.
“The patients have really embraced the program and are appreciative,” she said. “We like it because now we can watch and see trends and help the patient make changes before they end up in the hospital again.”
Dr. Dhond said part of the success of Kencor is the ease of use for the patient. “They just step on the scale, take their blood pressure and answer a few basic questions,” he said. “That simple delivery for the end-user is the key.”
NorthBay Heart & Vascular Center
Shea Pribyl, M.D.,Cardiothoracic Surgery