Healthbeat: Doctors warn of next public health crisis; heart failure

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Besides COVID-19, U.S. doctors are bracing for the next public health crisis: heart failure.

More than six million Americans live with this chronic and progressive condition which can prove fatal if left untreated. The condition causes the heart to not pump properly to provide the body the blood and oxygen it needs.

“So, the shortness of breath, the fatigue and the exercise intolerance are typically what people feel and what leads them to seek medical care,” Abott Chief Medical Director Philip Adamson, MD told Eyewitness News.

According to Dr. Adamson, many are avoiding seeking medical care because of the coronavirus pandemic.

HEART MATTERS, a nationwide study of practicing healthcare providers, revealed that three out of four cardiologists fear the coronavirus crisis has restricted patients’ ability to manage their heart failure, rightfully fearing that their condition makes them more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19.

“And so they have avoided medical care altogether. And sometimes they need emergent medical care, they need urgent care in the hospital and they have not sought that care and so we have seen unfortunately an increase in at-home deaths as a result of that avoidance,” Dr. Adamson said.

The HEART MATTERS survey also found more than half of cardiologists are concerned heart failure will develop at an increasing rate among other patient populations, including those with pre-existing conditions. One solution, according to Dr. Adamson, is to develop and even rely on a sensor-based mode of medicine to monitor heart failure patients.

“So, small sensors that can be implanted in the the patient’s body permanently that can provide information over time from the patient’s home that would essentially make virtual medicine intelligent, give information that doctors can understand and can act on and provide that level of medical care that they would provide if they were face-to-face with a patient and maybe even better,” Dr. Adamson said.

While heart failure education is considered key for early detection and management of the condition, the study finds that treating patients remotely can play a vital role in providing better outcomes.

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