As we mark World Heart Day this year, I wonder why we remember our hearts just one day of the year. The heart is the first organ to form during the development of the body and it begins beating not from birth, but from the fifth to sixth week of pregnancy with the foetal heart fully developing at ten weeks, and once it starts beating, this vital organ does not stop.

However, the heart is susceptible to disease and cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. The positive aspect is that many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices, early diagnosis through regular health checks and timely treatment and management. It is for this that we must remember our heart every moment, every day and work to keep it healthy and strong. We are fortunate that today, technology has armed us with the digital health innovations required to improve cardiovascular disease care.

This is in line with World Heart Day’s focus on harnessing the power of digital healthcare to improve awareness, prevention and management of cardiovascular diseases that encompasses a wide range of diseases. Digital is definitely a powerful solution to improve efficiencies in healthcare. Innovative digital health technologies are leading to good healthcare by facilitating disease prevention, diagnosis and management. Technology empowers patients and healthcare professionals and delivers better health outcomes.

While behavioural and metabolic factors are important contributory risks, some such as smoking, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet can be addressed through appropriate lifestyle modifications. In addition, technology with smartphone apps and smart wearables can help in addressing the effect of risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidaemia and obesity.

Today technology is powering CVD management and prevention with timely interventions that lead to and provide motivation for lifestyle modification and adherence to treatment regimens. Patients also play a critical role in the management of their own health with patient-facing interfaces on smartphone apps. The data from smartphone apps and smart wearables is also leading to the development of strategies to increase physical activity levels and motivate individuals to follow a healthy diet with consequent improvements in morbidity and reductions in mortality

World Heart Day this year also envisages a huge role to be played by Telehealth in beating CVD. Digital technology also powers virtual consultations, with patients able to consult a doctor anywhere and anytime at their convenience and avail instant consultation, diet and nutrition-related advice, and consultation with a specialist based on the criticality of the ailment. With telehealth services now available 24x7, video consults are becoming the new norm, increasing ease of availability and access to healthcare.

The healthcare industry needs to use the power of technology and focus on early detection. Preventive health checks and new technologies like AI, robotics, and data analytics need to be harnessed to provide high‐quality health care for India's vast population of 1.3 billion.

AI and ML should be leveraged for technology-based solutions to tackle the menace of CVD. AI‐powered CVD risk scores will enable physicians to predict the risk of heart disease years in advance of onset. A National Cardiac Registry will help collect data to enable researchers to better understand the causes of CVD.

The future will continue to see digital health as a critical success factor that supports healthcare delivery. An ASSOCHAM study predicts the number of smartphone users in India to rise to 859 million by 2022. One can only imagine the vast benefits of digital health to these users with the accelerated adoption of a digital approach to cardiovascular disease management leading to personalized treatment with better health outcomes at a lower cost.

Views expressed are personal. Dr Prathap C. Reddy is the founder-chairman of Apollo Hospitals.

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