How Cambridge Heartwear Aims To Reshape Healthcare Using Artificial Intelligence and Innovation

How Cambridge Heartwear Aims To Reshape Healthcare Using Artificial Intelligence and Innovation

Cambridge Heartwear has won two BIMA Awards for its Heartsense device, a wearable ECG monitor, in two categories this year: best-emerging technology and best-advanced innovation awards. Founded in 2017, Cambridge Heartwear is “a medical device and an artificial intelligence company using computer science and innovative real-time engineering for the prevention of heart disease and stroke”. The company is based in Cambridge science park, UK.

The BIMA Awards are the longest standing and most prestigious digital awards in the UK. The Awards support and encourage the groundbreaking digital innovations in the British digital sector that are pushing the limits of what is possible, making a difference in business, culture, and society. Winning in two categories is an anomaly and is considered to be a highly unlikely event. Cambridge Heartwear is one of a small league of companies that have achieved the rare feat in the long history of BIMA Awards.

This is not the first award for Cambridge Heartwear. Previously, it won an honorable mention in the Health and Wellness category in Fast Company’s ​2019 World Changing Ideas Awards. In 2018, PwC named Cambridge Heartwear one of the most innovative and disruptive companies in the UK PwC list of The Disruptors. However, BIMA, being one of Britain’s most prestigious digital awards, adds a different meaning for the founders.

Dr. Rameen Shakur, an academic cardiologist, Founder CEO of Cambridge Heartwear, currently Jansen Chair at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA) in Cardiology and Regeneration, said “Cambridge Heartwear is honored to be named winner of the BIMA Awards. We are humbled to receive not one but two awards. Being such a young company and taking on such an ambitious solution, gaining this recognition for our ongoing innovation and technology is very exciting. We have also developed other connected devices and training and fitness devices, which have the power of our platform embedded. We hope to provide this suite of devices to use the power of real-time data, with the support from AI, to aid the clinician.”

Founded in 2017, Cambridge Heartwear is “a medical device and an artificial intelligence company using computer science and innovative real-time engineering for the prevention of heart disease and stroke”.

Heartsense: the first real-time AI wearable heart monitor

Heartsense is the flagship product of Cambridge Heartwear. Using proprietary advanced AI technology, Heartsense is able to monitor and record ECG data in real-time and then transmit the data to the Heartsense mobile app. Patients can share the data with their physicians. The app presents live rhythm data to the physician. And helps see any heart disease problems like irregularities with the help of their patented AI software, developed in-house by the Cambridge Heartwear. The AI has the power to identify irregular and dangerous rhythms and thus assisting cardiologists and physicians in the diagnosis process.

The company says “Heartsense has the potential to transform the way in which cardiologists approach their work. Ultimately, saving time, money and lives.”

Dr. Shakur says “innovation in areas like artificial intelligence will help reshape healthcare in the future.” And his company aims to stay at the forefront of that transformation.

Cambridge Heartwear puts a disproportionate amount of importance on innovation. “We are a company which is built on innovation,” says, Dr. Shakur. “Hence, all of our team are built from Ph.D. level engineers, scientists and computer scientists from the University of Cambridge. I founded Cambridge Heartwear to apply the research I had developed at the University of Cambridge and with colleagues who wanted to make a material change in people’s lives using technology and innovation. At Cambridge Heartwear, our goal is simply to do that.” said Dr. Shakur.

Dr. Shakur says “innovation in areas like artificial intelligence will help reshape healthcare in the future.” And his company aims to stay at the forefront of that transformation.

Cambridge Heartwear's BIMA Awards

Cambridge Heartwear’s BIMA Awards

Saving lives

Dr. Shakur suggests that real-time diagnosis is critical for diseases like heart attack and stroke. Unfortunately, there are not enough reliable options for that. Many available options are expensive and thus inaccessible to most people. Heartsense aims to fill that gap.

In the UK alone there are more than 100,000 strokes each year. It’s the fourth biggest killer. In the US, strokes kill 140,000 people each year. It is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans. The interesting fact is that, according to British Heart Foundation figures, atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common heart rhythm condition and a key cause of stroke, is undiagnosed in up to 500,000 people. This has the potential to lead to more than 10,000 strokes, many of which could be prevented.

This is where Heartsense comes in that can monitor and detect any irregularities in heart rhythm in real-time and thus help prevent many incidents. “It makes sense to pick up AF before someone has a stroke and put preventative treatment in place,” Dr. Shakur told to Cambridge Science Park news. “This is our guiding principle”.

Heartsense is an innovative solution that combines real-time data and state-of-the-art artificial intelligence algorithms to enhance detection of AF, and other heart rhythm conditions. “Live data is displayed to doctors via a mobile app, together with the classification of the rhythm and the reason why. It’s designed to replicate the processes doctors follow when making a diagnosis.”

Heartsense monitor looks like a simple band worn around the chest. It is designed in a user-friendly manner which puts it into a different league when it comes to wearable heart monitors. The device includes multiple sensors that take electrocardiograms (ECG), or recordings of your heart’s electrical activity and transfers them to the Heartsense mobile app. AI algorithms in the app then find out irregular rhythms, deliver data in real-time that users can share with their physician.

Collaboration with Brain Station 23

Cambridge Heartwear has been collaborating with Brain Station 23, a Dhaka-based Software and AI company, to develop apps that are utilized in the South East Asia region for Cambridge Heartwear’s suite of connected real-time devices. The company says the collaboration, which continues as we speak, has been extremely useful.

Over the past years, Brain Station 23 has developed a strong foundation in AI and machine learning. The company has worked on multiple complex healthcare products addressing some of the critical healthcare problems.

A few weeks ago, Brain Station 23 took part in a Kaggle challenge and won bronze status where it came up with an AI Model which could detect pneumothorax on a very early stage and from X-ray could give a better and much faster report and save lives. Currently, doctors have to wait for the x-ray report, but through this AI model, the report can be auto-generated to help doctors save time and thus save lives.

“Cambridge Heartwear has developed a breakthrough healthcare device and technology. We have been working with Cambridge Heartwear for a while now and it has been an exciting journey where we built a mobile application on their AI models and suite of connected real-time devices to save lives,” says Raisul Kabir, CEO of Brain Station 23. “We have been investing heavily in developing AI and machine learning capabilities in the past few years and have been working on some cutting edge technology products for our clients across the world using AI and ML. Sometimes we provide research and engineering for developing deep learning models and sometimes we are building real-world mobile/web applications for the clients’ already developed research project on machine learning.”

Solving a critical problem requires us to think from first principles. “There is no alternative to research and innovation if we want to find solutions to critical problems that the world is facing today,” says Dr. Shakur. He suggests noble thinking is a prerequisite if we are to address challenges such as critical health issues.

Prof Dr. Rameen Shakur MD PhD (Cantab), Jansen Chair in Cardiology and Regeneration at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, USA | Photo credit: MIT

Prof Dr. Rameen Shakur MD Ph.D. (Cantab),
Jansen Chair in Cardiology and Regeneration at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, USA | Photo credit: MIT

Lessons from Cambridge Heartwear

In a 2018 interview with PwC, Dr. Shakur said “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.” He then goes on to explain the failure of available technologies in the market and how it inspired him to look into the problem and find a solution for it. “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?”

In an upcoming interview with Future Startup, Dr. Shakur says, “I realized that early detection and timely intervention in this complication could save many lives.” That’s when he started working on designing a prototype model for a heart monitor device that could monitor heart rhythm in real-time and report. After months of hard work, he came up with a workable prototype. He then started working with his colleagues from artificial intelligence and engineering at Cambridge University.

In 2015, Shakur met Roberto Cipolla, a professor at Cambridge University’s engineering department, whose father had died of a stroke the year before, an experience that made the work Shakur was doing much more relevant to him. The two decided to collaborate on devising the monitor. Cambridge Heartwear was eventually founded in 2017.

“I have no previous electrical engineering background, no technology experience,” Dr. Shakur told Healthline, a US-based magazine that published a story on Cambridge Heartwear in 2018. “I started working with colleagues in artificial intelligence and engineering whilst I was teaching at the University of Cambridge because I wanted a way for people who used the monitor to get their data in real-time, immediately,”

There are a few lessons to take away from Cambridge Heartwear. First, solving a critical problem requires us to think from first principles. “There is no alternative to research and innovation if we want to find solutions to critical problems that the world is facing today,” says Dr. Shakur. He suggests noble thinking is a prerequisite if we are to address challenges such as critical health issues.

Second, you need to collaborate. From the beginning of Cambridge Heartwear, Dr. Shakur has taken collaboration as an important part of his strategy to move forward. He worked with artificial intelligence and engineering departments at Cambridge to come up with solutions and now works with Brain Station 23 to develop some of the apps used in the devices. Throughout its journey, an open-minded approach to collaboration has helped Cambridge Heartwear to move forward.

Finally, an excellent team. To get into Cambridge Heartwear team, “the cut-off degree is Ph.D., says Dr. Shakur. The entire team is a team of Ph.D. holders and of some of the brightest people working in the industry. This has given the company an unparalleled advantage.

Cambridge Heartwear aims to make Heartsense commercially available in the first quarter of 2020. At the same time, Cambridge Heartwear has also been eyeing a handful of other exciting solutions to tackle some of the pressing healthcare issues.

Dr. Shakur says the company is looking into some other big opportunities and is excited about the future.

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