Artificial intelligence and medicine: Is it overhyped?

Artificial intelligence raises exciting possibilities for healthcare, but are companies promising more than they can deliver?

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AI could possibly fuel the future of medtech, enabling such thrilling innovations as implanted devices that instantly react to minute changes, software that can identify the best treatment options for individuals facing life-threatening conditions and fully-functioning autonomous surgical systems.

But artificial intelligence’s potential also comes with an incredible level of hype.

“AI has the most transformative potential of anything I’ve seen in my life, and I graduated medical school 40 years ago. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever seen by far,” prominent cardiologist and author Dr. Eric Topol told our sister site Medical Design & Outsourcing. “But it’s more in promise than it is in reality.”

Get the full story on MDO. 

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HeartFlow publishes findings from consumer survey

HeartFlowHeartFlow this week published the findings of a 1,500-person consumer survey, reporting that just 29% of respondents knew that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among adults in the U.S.

Half of the survey’s participants said that breast cancer is the leading cause of death among women, rather than heart disease.

“We are aiming to raise awareness that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men. It’s not just a man’s disease, as commonly thought,” Dr. Campbell Rogers, HeartFlow’s chief medical officer, said in prepared remarks.

“The symptoms for women are often different than the classic ‘clutching of the heart’, so it’s important for both women and men to visit their doctor if something doesn’t seem right,” he added.

In the survey, 77% of respondents said they were worried about their heart health but 67% added that they’ve never sought out diagnosis or treatment.

HeartFlow also reported that 78% of the survey’s participants said they trust technology powered by artificial intelligence to assist doctors and that most respondents believe that a combination of technology and human analysis leads to the most accurate diagnosis.

“At HeartFlow, we firmly believe that technology will play an integral role in changing patient care for the better,” president & CEO Dr. John Stevens said in prepared remarks. “However, the physician’s role in the patient journey is crucial and we expect to see the best care administered only when doctors and technology work hand in hand.”

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HeartFlow wins Japanese reimbursement for FFRct analysis

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HeartFlow said yesterday that it won reimbursement coverage from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for its HeartFlow FFRct fractional flow reserve analysis.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based company said that it has already received approval from the Japanese Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, and that reimbursement will go into effect beginning on December 1.

“When a patient presents with symptoms suggesting CAD, we want to be able to quickly and effectively diagnose patients while reducing the need for unnecessary tests or invasive procedures. In clinical studies, we were able to see firsthand how the HeartFlow Analysis can help to improve patient management and avoid invasive procedures in some patients. The reimbursement approval will enable more physicians and patients to obtain benefits from this ground-breaking technology,” Dr. Takashi Akasaka of Wakayama Medical University said in a prepared statement.

The HeartFlow analysis is a non-invasive, personalized cardiac test that applies artificial intelligence to image data taken from standard coronary computed tomography scans to produce a digital 3D model of a patient’s arteries. The system then applies algorithms to assess the impact of blockages on blood flow to the heart, the company said.

“Adding the HeartFlow Analysis to the anatomical information provided by a coronary CT angiogram enables us to better detect and treat CAD. With the broader availability of the HeartFlow Analysis, physicians in Japan will be able to more efficiently diagnose CAD while minimizing unnecessary tests or delaying care for patients,” Dr. Hiroyoshi Yokoi of the Fukuoka Sanno Hospital said in a prepared release.

The company touted that its technology has been shown to reduce unnecessary and invasive diagnostic coronary angiography procedures which are raise costs and are associated with bleeding, stroke, major blood vessel damage and other serious complications.

“The reimbursement approval in Japan is an important milestone for HeartFlow as we work to make our state-of-the-art technology available to more patients around the world. Our commercial launch will begin immediately and we look forward to giving clinicians in Japan a new tool to help them confidently diagnose CAD and determine the optimal treatment path for patients,” prez & CEO Dr. John Stevens said in a press release.

In August, HeartFlow released data from two studies of its HeartFlow fractional flow reserve FFRct analysis system, touting that the system allows for the more effective differentiation of patients who need coronary stenting or bypass surgery and those who can be managed on medications alone.

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HeartFlow wins UnitedHealthcare coverage for FFRct analysis

HeartFlow said today that it won reimbursement coverage from insurer UnitedHealthcare, which will now cover its HeartFlow FFRct fractional flow reserve analysis for its 45 million members.

HeartFlow’s FFRct technology works by taking the data from a standard CT scan and applying algorithms that result in a color-coded 3D “map” detailing the changes in flow across coronary lesions.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based company touted that with the new coverage, its HeartFlow FFRct is available to 235 million individuals in the US.

“This decision by UnitedHealthcare underscores the significant value that the HeartFlow Analysis brings to payers, physicians and patients, from both a clinical and economic standpoint. Not only is the HeartFlow Analysis now accessible to tens of millions of additional people, but this advancement also positions HeartFlow as an integral part of the standard approach to heart disease diagnosis and treatment,” prez & CEO Dr. John Stevens said in a press release.

The company said that UnitedHealthcare also adopted a policy which allows for the use of coronary CTA as a first-line test for symptomatic individuals, and that its FFRct analysis is approved to further assess coronary disease seen on a coronary CTA.

In March, HeartFlow said it inked a collaborative research agreement deal with the Imperial College London for research in the areas of medical imaging and deep learning using the company’s FFRct technology.

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HeartFlow wins CMS new tech payment classification for FFRct analysis

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HeartFlow said today that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services finalized a new technology ambulatory payment classification for its HeartFlow FFRct analysis designed to help diagnose suspected coronary artery disease.

Under the newly finalized payment decision, Medicare-enrolled hospitals will be eligible for reimbursements of $1,450.50 for each technical component of the FFRct analysis. The new rules are set to take effect on January 1, 2018.

“CMS’s decision to assign a New Technology APC for FFRct technology for Medicare recipients is a recognition of the value of this technology and its demonstrated ability to reduce the number of invasive diagnostic coronary angiography procedures and help medical centers reduce costs. The HeartFlow Analysis is an important tool in helping us assess patients with suspected coronary artery disease and better understand how their coronary blockages affect blood flow to the heart,” Dr. Pamela Douglas of Duke University said in a press release.

Redwood City, Calif.-based HeartFlow’s FFRct technology works by taking the data from a standard CT scan and applying algorithms that result in a color-coded 3D “map” detailing the changes in flow across coronary lesions.

“The decision by CMS will help in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with suspected CAD and means the number of patients over age 65 who will have access to this technology will significantly increase. At our center, the use of the HeartFlow FFRct Analysis is transforming how we diagnose and treat patients with coronary artery disease, helping us move closer to achieving the triple aim of improving the patient experience, improving the health of our patients, and reducing healthcare costs at our institution.” Dr. Daniel Simon of the Cleveland Medical Center said in a prepared statement.

In late August, HeartFlow said it won positive medical policies for its HeartFlow FFRct fractional flow reserve analysis system from 3 separate Blue Cross Blue Shield providers.