Innovation is to Repurpose, Reshape and Reinvent

Do not blend into the crowd... Ask the questions no one else is asking. You may not be right, but you will be part of the conversation. 
— Milton Packer, MD, FACC

This above quote from Packer is to some extent a common theme among all innovators. The concept of innovation in health care is an extremely broad topic, far too long for the purposes of this article.

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In general, I think of it as an idea founded on using ingenuity to problem solve. I have come to value innovation most in situations when we repurpose data that have already been collected, reshape technologies that already exist, or even when we reinvent ourselves in pursuit of new challenges.

When I was starting medical school, I met one of the most profound mentors I have had in my life, Kathleen Stergiopoulos, MD, PhD, FACC. Stergiopoulos showed me how we can apply the power of big data platforms to solve elusive problems in cardiology. Together, we designed projects using national claims databases as a means to investigate the impact of cardiomyopathies during pregnancy.

Although at the time there were already a fair amount of small studies looking at outcomes, no one had really looked at it on the national scale. Repurposing the information already available on these big data platforms – rather than venturing on prospective trials that may have cost a fortune – was an innovative and economical approach to studying these rare and poorly understood diseases.

As I progressed in my training, I continued learning more about different voluminous databanks throughout the globe that store trillions of datapoints on items, such as clinical metrics, genomics and proteomics, as well as online purchasing habits. I grew to appreciate that they effectively all coalesce to create the phenotypes of patients we treat every day.

These databases provide us with immense opportunities to better understand and implement the technologies of artificial intelligence and the principles of precision medicine in how we care for patients.

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During my cardiology fellowship, I met another important mentor of mine, Antony F. Chu, MD, FACC. Chu encouraged me to think about whether we could teach implantable cardiac devices to problem solve and auto-adjust their settings based on individualized patient's parameters and lifestyles. This was an innovative approach using artificial intelligence techniques to apply known inputs and outcomes from large databanks and merging them with an individual's real-time data.

The idea of reshaping and repurposing existing technologies has had an impact in nearly all aspects of cardiology.

In recent times, I believe some of the most innovative ideas have come forth in the cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology labs. For instance, optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an important tool we use every day in the cardiac catheterization lab to visualize and measure coronary vasculature.

However, many may not know that this technology has undergone waves of reshaping and applied in different forms. In fact, OCT was originally developed 20 years ago to help ophthalmologists examine the retina. Even more interesting, it has been used in the art world as a way to spot forged paintings.

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Cardiologists more recently have found OCT as a way to obtain accurate measurements and high-quality images of intravascular structures, such as stent strut apposition against the vessel walls.

Similarly, an article published in JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions highlighted a clever application of 3D electroanatomic mapping – a tool familiar to electrophysiologists – to help guide transseptal puncture during a transcatheter mitral valve repair using the MitraClip system.

Here we see investigators using a technology that is already in use across virtually all contemporary electrophysiology labs, but now repurposed to aid with imaging during a structural cardiology procedure. Like these innovative approaches, there remains several more ways to reshape and repurpose technologies across the various fields of cardiology (and medicine in general) waiting to be discovered.

In closing, one of the most impactful experiences in my career was taking a chance and going after a Master's in Public Health (MPH) degree. When I did this more than a decade ago, my core academic knowledge up to that point was made up mostly of intense basic science mechanisms and formulas.

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The "Why Innovation" section series is a brief write-up from ACC Health Care Innovation Section members to give readers a background of their professional journey, and explain the significance of innovation to their work and in the field.

Authors can include their personal definition of innovation, as well as tips or tricks on how to bring innovative ideas to the table in otherwise traditional settings and spaces.

I found myself during those two years of MPH training having to reinvent the way I approached data and problem solving. I went from surrounding myself with basic scientists to spending time with social scientists, epidemiologists and statisticians.

The importance of this new skillset helped me to find a means to work with a whole new group of thinkers who viewed that the road to curing diseases was not only found on the cellular level but also probably more on the stakeholder level.

In 2018, the ACC created the Health Care Innovation Section to serve as a professional resource for individuals with an interest in health care innovation. Since its launch, the section's membership has grown significantly with motivated individuals interested in collaborating on promising ideas that may lead to health care transformation.

As a new member of the ACC Health Care Innovation Leadership Council, I look forward to working with you all. Please feel free to reach out to me to discuss ideas on collaboration or how you can get involved in the ACC Health Care Innovation Section.

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This article was authored by Fabio V. Lima, MD, MPH, Fellow in Training (FIT) at Brown University in Providence, RI.