Cambridge Heartwear is an exciting healthcare technology business. Its founder Dr Rameen Shakur speaks to us about how disruption in healthcare started from his garden shed and how the med-tech world needs to have a better understanding of the medical and clinical needs rather than enforcing technology on the unassuming public.
Dr Shakur who as an academic cardiologist took his clinical experience of dealing with patients with heart problems in the NHS and combined this with his flair for research and problem solving whilst at the university of Cambridge. Data is everywhere, but Cambridge Heartwear is a dynamic young prudent company which uses the needs of the patient at the heart of all its decisions.
The Big problem
Stroke and stroke-related mortality and morbidity affect 120,000 people in the UK each year. It’s the country’s fourth-biggest killer, with more than 23,000 deaths last year. National and international data suggests that more than 80% of those who die, or who are left with severe neurological deficits following a stroke, had an irregular heartbeat as the underlying cause. Worryingly, this trend is rising due to the global epidemic in obesity, hypertension and diabetes, all causal factors in the development of irregular heartbeats. The most common heart rhythm disturbance, affecting more than one million people across the UK, is atrial fibrillation (AF). Unfortunately, the technology and clinical care systems we currently have in place aren’t picking up AF before someone has a stroke and doesn’t enable us to put preventative treatment in place.
This highlighted to me that early diagnosis could make a real difference. As an academic clinician in cardiology, I saw first-hand numerous patients whose stroke was caused by a heartbeat irregularity which had been undetected or missed by current diagnostics, processes and technology. So I asked myself the question - How could I find a way to fix this problem?
Rameen gets to work on the problem
I wanted to automate this process, help the patient get a diagnosis and start treatment. I also wanted to help my colleagues in primary care to be at the forefront of screening this problem. I set out to develop a new wearable, less intrusive device for the continuous monitoring of heart rhythms. A device which would be able to take not one, but many ECGs to improve accuracy and also combine further physiological data such as oxygen levels and breathing.
The heartsense device does this. It’s a completely wireless device and is ergonomically made to be worn during the day with a battery life of 12 hours in one charge. Moreover, the device has been made with both males and females in mind to appreciate the anatomical differences and the needs of men and women on a daily basis. I have to say my wife who is a working physician helped in the many trials and I am grateful to her to the many tests of the device we had.
I was interested to note that many med-tech companies often forget the needs of women and for me this was, and is something we in Cambridge Heartwear continue to address. Health and wellbeing is not a privilege, it’s a basic right in civilised societies. I began Cambridge Heartwear to combine the clinical, physiological needs of accurate data without the added expense on marketing. If we want the best data and that’s useful for clinical use it should be at the heart of the problem.
AI for good
Our Heartsense monitor has been developed in tandem with powerful AI algorithms that can automatically interpret ECG data to an accuracy above 95%. It can also function in more varied environments and situations, such as times of increased activity as opposed to specific periods of time during surgery or in a hospital. AI can take things to the next level and it’s not difficult to implement if you have the right will and vision. But this is not about reducing the role of the human clinician, it’s about empowering them, giving them rich data - monitored in real time - to allow for better decision-making and interventions at crucial times.
We're using technology as an enabler for the disruption of a process, with significant benefits as a result. Significantly, we are moving towards what is currently tertiary care to primary care. The NHS spends £2.5 billion annually on neurological treatment and rehabilitation for stroke patients. By improving and embedding monitoring at the primary stage, there is significant opportunity to reduce these costs. The real-time analysis we provide doctors with will trigger possible signs much sooner. In addition preventative treatments such as anticoagulants can be prescribed more effectively than at present to help reduce attacks.
There's a trending increase in the use of wearable connected devices and consumer-monitoring apps. Increasing numbers of people want to monitor themselves and have greater visibility and control of their health data. With regards to wearable devices, our team is addressing the question of ‘how do you make these devices medically and life-changing impactful?’ We provide the confidence and infrastructure to clinical experts to have access to this data and to act upon it. Our desire to tackle this challenge was borne from personal experiences - this has given us the extra drive to successfully reduce this debilitating and potentially fatal disease, as well as greatly reduce costs in the healthcare system.
Dr Rameen Shakur with the device he built called Heartsense. Dr Shakur is currently in MIT, USA
Dr Rameen shakur M.D. PhD (Cantab) FRSA
Founder and CEO of Cambridge Heartwear.
South East, PwC United Kingdom