In the past year, we have seen widespread adoption of at-home and drive-through diagnosis. Dispersion of the first line of healthcare is creating a massive opportunity to lower healthcare costs and improve disease management for millions of patients. With more than 5 million patients in the United States and 11 million physician visits each year (more than all forms of cancer combined), heart failure is one of the leading causes of death and accounts for a massive portion of healthcare costs.1 In fact, congestive heart failure is the first-listed diagnosis in 875,000 hospitalizations, and the most common diagnosis in patients 65 years and older.2 It is not uncommon for heart failure patients to experience symptoms like shortness of breath, irregular heart beats, and swelling ankles. As these symptoms can be warning signs of a worsening condition, many patients go directly to the ER which is costly and inefficient. There is a desperate need for tools that can help patients avoid unnecessary hospitalizations, and know with certainty when they need immediate medical attention.
Richard M. Crooks, Ph.D., Professor in the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, and his multidisciplinary team are developing an affordable, time-saving test for heart-failure patients to use in their homes. The technology, a home heart-failure monitor, is meant to be as accessible for consumers as a home pregnancy test.3 Indeed, the team includes Ian Richards, Ph.D., co-inventor of Clearblue®, a popular brand of pregnancy test. The technology is enabled by a breakthrough that allows for highly sensitive measurement of plasma levels of NT-proBNP, which is a well-established indicator of myocardial stress. Recently, the Crooks group demonstrated the ability to detect NT-proBNP at concentrations between 0.58 and 2.33 nM.4 This performance approaches the critical NT-proBNP threshold used by physicians to direct treatment. With this new system, patients can provide their physician with this critical information over the phone or electronically, saving critical time and possibly avoiding unnecessary and expensive visits to the ER.
1., 2. https://www.emoryhealthcare.org/heart-vascular/wellness/heart-failure-statistics.html
4. Pollok, N.E. et al., ACS Sens . 2020 Mar 27;5(3):853-860. https://doi.org/10.1021/acssensors.0c00167