Improving Structural Heart Disease Care: Interview with Joel Portice, egnite CEO


egnite, a digital healthcare company based in California, offers the CardioCare, an AI-based solution that aims to help clinicians identify and treat patients with structural heart disease. CardioCare is already used in over 50 hospitals in the US.

The company reports that structural heart disease can sometimes be undertreated or not identified in a timely manner. These gaps in care inspired CardioCare, which aims to help clinicians in their diagnosis and referral of such patients. For instance, the system can analyze echocardiograms to look for signs of structural heart disease, and provide targeted information on each patient to help clinicians to make decisions on care.

CardioCare was originally created at Edwards Lifesciences, but will now be further developed under the care of egnite, which has just been launched as a standalone company.        

Medgadget had the opportunity to speak with Joel Portice, egnite CEO, about the technology.

Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Please give us an overview of egnite and how it was established.

Joel Portice, egnite: Our goal at egnite is to drive transformation in the fragmented healthcare systems we often see today. As egniters, we talk about it internally as sparking transformation and recognize the profound opportunity we have to do good. We are a digital healthcare company dedicated to improving structural heart patient care by delivering actionable insights through intuitive digital health platforms, proprietary AI powered analytics, and deep clinical expertise. Our flagship solution, CardioCare, was developed at Edwards Lifesciences – a medical device leader in structural heart innovation. Over the past six years, our AI-based solution has achieved various milestones and commercial successes. The CardioCare program closes gaps in care that prevent timely treatment, and as it continues to elevate the standard of care for structural heart disease patients. After we achieved a significant milestone of processing one million echocardiograms in CardioCare’s database, it was the right time for egnite to launch as a standalone company to accelerate its trajectory. We’re positioned to develop and grow digital technologies and apply data science with the focus, speed, and agility of an entrepreneurial technology company.

Medgadget: Why did you focus on structural heart disease? Please give us some background on structural heart disease and how it affects patients.

Joel Portice: Structural heart disease which impacts millions of people also includes abnormalities of the valves (mitral, aortic, tricuspid and pulmonary) of the heart wall that develop due to wear and tear caused by aging, injury or infection. When valves in the heart can’t open and close effectively, blood isn’t able to move through the body as it’s designed to do. Valves can become stiff, preventing them from fully opening to allow sufficient blood flow – this is referred to as stenosis. Valve regurgitation is another issue in which the valve can’t close completely and blood fails to move in the proper direction. When blood flow is altered and left untreated, it can lead to serious problems including stroke, heart failure, or sudden cardiac arrest.

The key to effectively treating structural heart disease starts with the proper identification of the disease and problem area within the heart and ensuring there is comprehensive follow-up. We unfortunately have seen significant undertreatment of structural heart disease caused by fragmented healthcare unintentionally causing patients with diseases to fall through the cracks; often through incomplete exams that miss a critical finding, missed diagnosis, or lack of follow-up. This is why we’re dedicated to propelling the CardioCare program and its key data capabilities into the healthcare environment.

Gaps in Care that Can Lead to Delays in Treatment

Medgadget: How is structural heart disease conventionally identified and monitored?

Joel Portice: Identification of the disease typically starts with distinguishing symptoms such as chest pain, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fatigue, high blood pressure, and swelling of the abdomen, ankles, or feet. These issues prompt most patients to seek care in which case their physician can identify the disease state through testing with an echocardiogram. Some patients can be monitored over time and treated with medication, and others need immediate intervention either through catheter-based minimally invasive procedures, or open-heart surgery. Knowing where the patient is on their journey and reducing gaps in the care pathway is how we, as a healthcare industry, can deliver measurable improvements in the care of structural heart disease patients. Our CardioCare program has demonstrated a significant increase in the identification, diagnosis, and referral of structural heart patients. Above all, it has increased the number of patients receiving a therapy plan – and that’s how you ultimately improve patient care.

Medgadget: How does the CardioCare program work? How does it help clinicians who are treating structural heart disease patients?

Joel Portice: The CardioCare program is a HITRUST certified, cloud-based solution that delivers actionable insights through an intuitive software platform, proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) powered analytics, and deep clinical consulting, to help hospital systems improve patient care. It connects to the hospital’s data to collect and process information relevant to managing their structural heart patient population. The system’s clinical dashboard populates all structural heart patients in the system to streamline workflow and deliver providers actionable information for targeted patient follow-up. 

It helps clinicians by looking at trends in the patient data and providing them with insights they need to reduce variability in diagnosis and treatment that can lead to delays in care. Our platform also offers clinical consultants who provide ongoing support to hospitals. These consultants are there to help the hospital integrate the software into clinical practice, suggest best practices in change management, and help providers to interpret their program’s data.

Medgadget: Who is currently using the system? How has it helped to improve the treatment journey for patients?

Joel Portice: We have partnered with more than 50 hospitals nationwide and have processed more than 1 million echocardiograms in the company’s cloud database. In analysis of hospitals using our CardioCare program for six months, there was a median 37% increase in patients identified with severe aortic stenosis and a 35% increase in patients referred to a cardiovascular specialist.

The CardioCare program’s proprietary AI algorithms apply machine learning to interpret thousands of diagnostic exam findings in minutes to help physicians uncover undertreatment of structural heart disease. The science and innovation within the platform truly have the power to spark a transformation in how structural heart patients are treated.

Medgadget: Do you have any plans to launch digital healthcare solutions to aid in the treatment of other diseases?

Joel Portice: Structural heart disease is certainly our primary focus and priority. We’ve seen firsthand the immeasurable impact this data can have on the identification, diagnosis, referral, and ultimately treatment of patients who would have otherwise fallen through the cracks. In the future, we intend to leverage our leadership in SHD, digital health, and artificial intelligence technologies into additional addressable disease areas.

Link: egnite homepage…

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