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NHS accelerates AI technology to fight heart disease – the leading cause of death in UK

07 May 2021

The new MedTech Funding Mandate will accelerate the adoption of HeartFlow’s technology across hospitals in England.

(Image: Shutterstock)
(Image: Shutterstock)

HeartFlow, Inc., a leader in revolutionising precision heart care, has announced that the National Health Service England (NHSE) and NHS Improvement have mandated that English hospitals adopt the AI-powered HeartFlow FFRCT Analysis to fight coronary heart disease (CHD), the leading cause of death in the UK.

The HeartFlow Analysis has been selected as one of the innovations supported by NHSE’s new MedTech Funding Mandate. The Mandate, which will begin 1 April 2021, aims to provide innovative medical devices and digital products to NHSE patients more quickly, and is a key policy in helping to improve patient care and reduce costs for the public health service. The Mandate includes the option to extend funding for up to an additional three years through 31 March 2024.

The HeartFlow Analysis streamlines the diagnostic experience for patients – often eliminating invasive diagnostic procedures for those who do not need them. It also helps ensure those who do need invasive procedures are swiftly and accurately diagnosed. The technology limits redundant non-invasive diagnostic testing, reduces patient time in hospital and face-to-face clinical contact, and helps ensure that hospital visits for those who do need them are streamlined, which is particularly crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The HeartFlow Analysis takes data from a coronary CT angiography (CTA) scan and uses deep learning technology and highly trained analysts to create a personalised, digital 3D model of the patient’s coronary arteries. Its algorithms solve millions of equations to simulate blood flow in a patient’s arteries to help clinicians assess the functional impact of any blockages.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advocates a CTA-first approach to diagnosing CHD. The HeartFlow Analysis has been declared a best practice non-invasive option for patients in recent updates to NICE’s guidance, stating that the technology should be considered as an option for patients with stable, recent onset chest pain who are offered CTA. HeartFlow plays a central role in providing clinicians greater confidence in their diagnoses, while reducing the time to diagnosis for patients.

Dr Anna Beattie, Consultant Cardiothoracic Radiologist at Newcastle Hospitals, says:

“We have used the HeartFlow Analysis in Newcastle Hospitals since August 2018. It has contributed to significant changes in the way we diagnose patients and use hospital resources. Prior to adopting the technology, we used a coronary CT-first approach for 28% of all patients referred to our rapid access chest pain clinic. Now, that has risen to more than 45% and the number of diagnostic-only invasive angiograms we perform has reduced. 

“The HeartFlow Analysis is a great tool to supplement a CT-first approach by providing functional information on top of the anatomical information from a CT scan. This is great for patients as it reduces unnecessary risks and means they spend less time at the hospital.”

Dr Timothy Fairbairn, Consultant Cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, says: “In our practice, 4 out of 5 patients who have a HeartFlow Analysis avoid the need for further invasive testing. This enables us to treat patients more quickly, leading to an improved patient experience and has had a positive impact on our waiting times for other non-invasive stress tests.”

“The MedTech Funding Mandate allowed us to have a positive conversation with our commissioners, emphasising the real benefits our practice has experienced and secure funding for continued use of the HeartFlow Analysis going forward. The MedTech Funding Mandate and funding commitment from commissioners [mean] NHS hospitals will be able to continue to offer the best available technologies in our approach to the diagnosis and management of CHD for patients.”

HeartFlow’s technology is already used in 60 NHSE hospitals. The extension of the ITP and introduction of the MedTech Funding Mandate will allow hospitals to continue providing cutting-edge care to patients and accelerate the adoption of the technology in hospitals throughout the country.

Lance Scott, Chief Commercial Officer at HeartFlow, concludes: “The new MedTech Funding Mandate helps bring world-leading medical innovations to patients across NHSE hospitals. The HeartFlow Analysis is already available in a number of English hospitals, and today’s announcement, coupled with the immediate funding unlocked through the ITP programme, means we can rapidly scale and ensure more clinicians across England have access to the HeartFlow Analysis to non-invasively diagnose CHD and formulate treatment plans for their patients.”

“Since 2018, we’ve processed more than 15,000 HeartFlow Analyses for NHSE patients, helping cardiology services prioritise invasive treatments for those who need it most. This has also contributed to a better patient experience, reducing unnecessary procedures and the time to diagnosis. Many patients can also receive a diagnosis and treatment plan after just one trip to the hospital, helping to reduce risks and face-to-face contact time during the ongoing pandemic.”

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