Innovation at ACC | ACC.19 Innovation Challenge: Supporting Emerging Technology to Transform Care, Outcomes

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The Future Hub Theater at ACC.19 was the site of a shark tank-style pitch competition – with a focus on innovative solutions that can contribute to transforming cardiovascular care and improve heart health.

Eight startup companies competed in two categories, artificial intelligence (AI) and digitally-enabled medical devices, in the Second Annual ACC.19 Innovation Challenge, a collaboration between ACC and its Health Care Innovation Section and AngelMD.

For each category, four finalists were selected from the field of submissions. In the device category, the finalists were cliexa, HeartHero, GraftWorx and Sira Medical. In the AI category, they were Care Angel, HealthPals, Moving Analytics and RecoverLINK.

Before a crowd of meeting attendees and ACC member-judges, each startup pitched their product. Audience members voted along with the judges to help select the winner in each category.

Why AI?

The importance of the digitally-enabled medical device category is somewhat obvious. But to many of us, the term AI conjures up images of talking robots. The reality is quite different.

If you had to choose a single term that has gotten the wealth of attention in the world of cardiology lately, it may well be artificial intelligence. AI uses complex algorithms and software to mimic human thinking. The advantage is that AI can operate at a scale that person-hours, budgets and space would not allow without the use of computers.

In the world of cardiology, AI's primary focus is to provide a set of tools to augment and extend the effectiveness of the physician or clinician. As our testing and technologies get more data intensive, AI allows that data to be used to provide the faster and more personalized care that patients demand and deserve. For an in-depth look at the potential of AI, don't miss the focus seminar article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.1

Meet the Winners

The competition was fierce, with strong showings from each company. In the end, the judges chose HeartHero in the device category and Moving Analytics from the AI category. The two companies showed a strong understanding of their respective markets, the challenges they face and viable paths toward solving them.

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HeartHero is working to make AED technology portable, affordable and user-friendly. They've developed a miniaturized AED coupled with an ecosystem to activate emergency responders and improve the chain of survival for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

At half the size and weight of AEDs currently on the market and using standard consumer batteries, it can be carried easily or stored at home by people at an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest or their family. The HeartHero device guides the user through the resuscitation process with CPR prompts along with an auditory and visual guide.

A "smart" AED, it has cellular and Bluetooth connectivity that connects with the HeartHero smartphone app, detects the state of the AED, contacts EMS and provides notifications for maintenance. Recordable and retrievable data can be provided to the physician. The device is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yet or available for sale.

HeartHero CEO Gary Montague, PA-C, says the company is about more than selling an AED. "I want to get into the track of how we address cardiac arrest as an issue. By doing so you must have a really cool device. But the conversation is much, much bigger."

According to Montague, the secret to addressing cardiac arrest lies within the community. To date, the community at large has only been empowered with CPR as a lifesaving technique. Montague takes issue with that fact. The HeartHero device addresses a critical gap in the industry, they say, because it will be possible to own an AED and save a life, rather than wait for EMS or search for an AED.

"The data and the numbers showed me that electricity is the answer [to save a life]. We won competitions with both the American College of Emergency Physicians and the ACC, and both are pitching that electricity is key."

His experience at the Innovation Challenge only further solidified his direction. "I was walking off the stage and knew that the message was right when I was rushed off the stage by six physicians who were ready to talk while the pitch was still going on."

The problem, as Montague sees it, is that the giants of the health care industry aren't interested in the sudden cardiac arrest market in the same way that HeartHero can be. "One hundred twenty million dollars per year is about what they make on its AED sales. They spend $200,000 on marketing. There is an absolute disconnect there."

For a patient who is leaving the doctor's office, or someone sitting at home, the remaining touch point is their phone. They are overwhelmed with information, but it's not often the right information to help them make educated decisions about prevention. HeartHero is focused on answering customer questions around sudden cardiac arrest. Part of that answer lies in having access to an easy-to-use, affordable AED.

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In the world of cardiac rehabilitation, a mere 15 percent of patients ever complete their prescribed programs. In a value-based health care world, where readmission can lead to stiff penalties, it's critical that patients have access to care that is not only effective, but also mindful of their constraints.

CEO Harsh Vathsangam, PhD, knows a thing or two about making systems work better for patients. He received his PhD from the University of Southern California, where he focused on work at the intersection of AI and mobile health. His earlier work produced iGest, an alternative communication device for children with cerebral palsy.

Vathsangam says the key to his company's program pitched at the Innovation Challenge – called Movn – is that it is home-based cardiac rehab. Studies have shown that completing a cardiac rehab program can cut the risk of readmission by up to 40 percent, while also doubling a patient's life expectancy.

The problem, however, is that most cardiac rehab programs are delivered in a brick-and-mortar setting, requiring patients to travel, miss work or experience other inconveniences. The result is $150 billion in preventable annual medical costs because patients don't attend and complete their prescribed rehab programs.

Movn is a clinically validated digital cardiac rehab and secondary prevention program for heart disease, which Moving Analytics helps hospitals implement. The program combines evidence-based guidelines, behavioral science, remote monitoring and personalized coaching to effectively engage patients and improve their health outcomes. Support is provided for EHR integration, CPT code billing, chronic care management, connected devices and telehealth services.

The program identifies the patient's goals and creates a personalized treatment plan, followed by providing the patient with the tools to manage their medication, education, exercise and other risk factors to build sustainable habits. Care managers use the care coordination platform to coach the patient, provide support and address symptoms through texts, phone calls and e-visits.

The results of the Movn program speak for themselves:

  • 60 percent enrollment rate when the program is offered
  • 80 percent of users graduate
  • 85 percent stop smoking
  • 47 percent exercise >150 minutes per week
  • 97 percent exhibit beta-blocker adherence
  • 85 percent have a blood pressure <140/90 mm Hg

For Vathsangam, preparing for the Innovation Challenge was a matter of considering his audience. "What's the minimum information that I need to say to get them talking about us as their after-party?" When your audience is hundreds of the best cardiologists in the country, getting the message right is paramount.

The strength and value of the ACC and the Innovation Challenge wasn't lost on Vathsangam. "This has been a tremendous accommodation of our service. The ACC is the scientific organization for cardiac care. Being recognized by the ACC validates you and gives you a self-confidence that can't be matched when you're talking to current or future customers."

For patients as well as providers and payers, Moving Analytics is an answer to a problem as old as cardiac rehab itself. The company has been recognized by the American Heart Association, Forbes, TMCx, Philips, and now by the ACC.

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This article was authored by Brad McCarty, Content Manager, at AngelMD. AngelMD looks forward to the return of the Innovation Challenge at ACC.20, and it is proud to play a part in sourcing the companies and allowing cardiovascular professionals to help build the future of health care.


  1. Johnson KW, Torres Soto J, Glicksberg BS, et al. J Am Coll Cardiol 2018;71:2668-79.

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, American Heart Association, Artificial Intelligence, Behavioral Sciences, Blood Pressure, Blood Pressure Determination, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Cerebral Palsy, Current Procedural Terminology, Death, Sudden, Cardiac, Ecosystem, Exercise Test, Defibrillators, Emergency Responders, Health Care Sector, Habits, Heart Diseases, Life Expectancy, Mentors, Marketing, Myocardial Infarction, Patient Readmission, Risk Factors, Incubators, Secondary Prevention, Troponin, Telemedicine, Smoking, Software, Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest, United States Food and Drug Administration, ACC19, ACC Annual Scientific Session

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