An Indianapolis heart specialist has partnered with Biznet Digital of Southfield, MI, to introduce an iPhone app that can help doctors and patients evaluate the risks of implanting an artificial heart. Jennifer Cowger, MD, MS, created the iPhone app to help doctors assess a patient’s suitability for a LVAD (left ventricular assist device), which is used to support heart function and blood flow in patients waiting for a transplant or for long-term management of heart failure. The pump, sometimes called an artificial heart, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives a year.
“The app provides data based on thousands of prior implants to let patients know their likelihood of survival, which helps them make a more informed decision.”
More than 150,000 patients in the U.S are candidates for a heart transplant, but this year there will be only about 2,200 heart transplants performed, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Implantation of an LVAD is a life-saving option. “The app is used to identify people who will do well on the pump,” explains Dr. Cowger. Namely it provides a risk score for estimating a patient’s survival rate at one year after surgery. “My aim is to improve patient outcomes and patient understanding of the risks and benefits of this device surgery.”
“Having this information at hand on your phone or tablet during a patient visit allows the doctor and patient to discuss if the LVAD pump is right both from a physical and emotional aspect,” says Dr. Cowger. Access to reliable information is important as the rate of implants grows and the procedure is performed at smaller institutions with less experience, according to Dr. Cowger. To date, approximately 10,000 pumps have been implanted in the U.S. “The app provides data based on thousands of prior implants to let patients know their likelihood of survival, which helps them make a more informed decision,” says Dr. Cowger. The app is based on research predicting survival of patients with the LVAD in a study co-authored by Dr. Cowger and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The app includes an updated trouble-shooting guide to assist doctors and nurses who are caring for patients with the pump. It provides the latest information and guidelines about alarms and managing patients on the device in particular scenarios. “My hope is that I can improve patient care through better clinician understanding of the device and patient management issues,” says Dr. Cowger.
About Jennifer Cowger
Jennifer Cowger, MD, MS, is a clinical specialist in cardiovascular medicine and resident of Carmel, IN. Her expertise is in advanced heart failure, cardiac transplant, and mechanical support of the heart. Dr. Cowger received her medical degree from the Ohio State University, graduating class valedictorian in 2001. She completed her internal medicine residency at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina in 2004. She received her cardiovascular medicine fellowship training at the University Of Michigan with subspecialty training in heart failure and cardiac transplant which was completed in 2007. After concluding her medical education, Dr. Cowger obtained a master’s degree in clinical research and statistics at the university’s school of public health. She then served as the medical director of Mechanical Support at the University. Dr. Cowger’s research interests are in mechanical circulatory support of the heart using left ventricular assist devices (LVADS). Her specific research area of focus is on improving patient outcomes with long term LVAD support.