We’re blending leading-edge technology with a patient-first focus that only serves to improve health. As a physician, what can be better than that?”

Bradley Clark, MD — Cardiologist

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology continues to be an increasingly important part of the healthcare landscape. New AI products provide advantages to providers and patients across multiple specialties and services. That is why Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute was eager to pilot a new AI-enabled tool called The HeartFlow Analysis.

HeartFlow is a diagnostic tool that allows cardiologists and radiologists to get a clearer picture of a patient’s coronary arteries, helping to identify the impact that blockages have on blood flow to the heart. More importantly, all of this can be done without resorting to the more traditional techniques such as a stress test or cardiac catheterization, both of which are highly variable and subject to interpretation.

Ultimately, HeartFlow provides us, and our patients, with a more anatomic and physiologic picture of what is going on with the plumbing in the heart,” said Bradley Clark, MD, a Novant Health cardiologist. “This is a faster and better option for diagnosing potential cardiac issues while offering patients a safer and noninvasive alternative. It is a win-win for both physician and patient.”

Today, Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center and Novant Health Matthews Medical Center are two of only 400 hospitals worldwide using the technology to more quickly and accurately diagnose heart issues.

Here’s how it works

A patient presents with symptoms of coronary artery disease such as chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating and/or fatigue. The treating physician’s first decision is whether to perform a standard cardiac CT scan.

If the cardiac CT identifies a coronary narrowing, more information is needed to determine the extent of the problem and how to treat it. Next step is a HeartFlow Analysis.

Once the scans are loaded, deep learning, a form of AI, is included with HeartFlow to formulate the analysis. Within five hours, the physician receives the completed analysis — a 3D model that gives a visualization of the patient’s coronary arteries. The computer algorithms simulate if blood flow is impaired and, if so, precisely where.

“It’s designed to be easy to use,” said Dr. Clark. “It’s color-coded. Blue is good blood flow. Red is bad.”

More importantly, this level of data allows the cardiologist to make a determination on the course of treatment — including catherization, stents or possible bypass surgery — in a matter of moments.

The benefits of HeartFlow

Patients and physicians will find there are many benefits for the use of HeartFlow over traditional diagnostic tools. HeartFlow is covered in the outpatient setting by Medicare and most major insurers. In addition, the use of HeartFlow can:

  • Improve timely diagnosis of coronary artery disease, as results come back in a matter of hours.
  • Reduce the overall cost by eliminating a catheterization procedure.
  • Enhance dialogue among the various specialists involved in the patient’s care.
  • Reduce false positive diagnostic rates allowing for more appropriate use of the cath lab.
  • Improve CT reading and acquisition.
  • Facilitate procedural and treatment planning for interventionalists.
  • Simplify workflows and improves efficiency.
  • Enable meaningful patient interactions, education and engagement by offering a mobile platform accessible on mobile devices.

What’s more is that with AI technologies like HeartFlow, Novant Health can level the playing field and begin to eliminate health disparities in the communities we serve. Machine learning virtually eliminates any bias due to race, gender, age or ethnicity.

To refer a patient, call 833-HVI-4811.