On World Heart Day, 29 September 2021, the World Heart Federation (WHF) is calling on the international community to bring digital cardiovascular health services to millions worldwide. COVID-19 has seen an explosion in telemedicine, with a 40%1 jump in the world’s richest countries. WHF believes this digital transformation presents a pivotal opportunity for millions living with cardiovascular disease from lower-income backgrounds who have little access to an in-person consultation.
CVD claims the lives of 18.6 million people per year and the 520 million people living with CVD have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
WHF is calling for equity across healthcare and for the rapid development of digital care to reduce inequalities by transforming the diagnosis, prevention, and management of CVD in lower- and middle-income settings.
Currently, only 20%2 of the population in lower-income countries is online. WHF is calling for operators to fund and develop the infrastructure to reach disconnected hearts everywhere; governments to prioritize digital infrastructure and heart health in policy; industry to keep prices of tech affordable, and telecoms service providers to collaborate with them to bring digital medicine to some of the world’s poorest communities across the globe.
“Never before have we seen such a ‘techceleration’ in cardiology,” says Fausto Pinto, President of the World Heart Federation. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the lives of millions of people who are left behind in healthcare today. We should use digital health to scale up and speed up prevention efforts and save lives and millions spent on care.”
From online consultations to simple Electrocardiograms (ECGs), blood pressure monitoring, and virtual surgery, the web has opened new possibilities to make cardiovascular care accessible to millions. As with all rapid digital transformations, there are challenges. For healthcare, top concerns include data privacy, technology compatibility, and the need for human contact. According to WHF, co-designing programs with patients will also be critical.
World Heart Day is supported by leading pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Boehringer Ingelheim, and Lilly Alliance.
The general public is encouraged to get involved in World Heart Day by joining the conversation across social platforms using the hashtags #UseHeart and #WorldHeartDay.