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Study: App Helps Save Lives for Babies with Heart Defects

A tablet app is helping change and improve care for babies born with heart defects. (Children's Mercy)
A tablet app is helping change and improve care for babies born with heart defects. (Children's Mercy)
December 11, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tablet computers aren't just for fun and games. With new data showing the success of an app developed for babies born with heart defects, doctors at Children's Mercy say this sort of technology can be lifesaving.

Since March of 2014, the Cardiac High-Acuity Monitoring Program, or CHAMP app, has been used with 30 babies born with a single-ventricle heart defect, which requires three surgeries and vigilant at-home monitoring in between. The app gathers critical stats on the baby, such as oxygen saturation, weight and feeding logs, and even videos of their breathing, which is all sent directly to the care team.

Doctor Girish Shirali is the co-director of the Ward Family Heart Center at Children's Mercy, and he says the results have been remarkable.

"Typically, we would have lost between 10 percent and 20 percent of our babies who were discharged from the hospital before they were to come back for their second stage surgery," he says. "And since we put the program in place, we've not lost anybody."

In the past, parents had to manually record this data in a three-ring binder. Shirali says not only does the app reduce their burden, it also allows for all the data to be captured and used to better understand and treat this condition in the future.

An estimated 3,000 children in the U.S. have this defect, which requires rapid intervention when complications arise or it can be fatal. Shirali says the study showed the app, which automatically alerts doctors when critical stats reach a certain threshold, sees things parents and caregivers can easily miss.

"They didn't pick up that there was a problem," he says. "The system picked it up. And those turned out to be pretty significant. Eight of those ended up they needed a heart catheterization or an operation."

Shirali says he believes apps like this could represent the future of medicine, allowing doctors to better treat many conditions requiring close monitoring and quick action.

"The way that the informatics backbone has been built, lends itself perfectly to be able to be used for monitoring diabetics or asthmatics, whether for children or adults, it doesn't really matter," says Shirali.

Thanks to a grant from the Giannini Foundation, Shirali says Children's Mercy will be able to expand the reach of the app by distributing another 400 CHAMP systems to partner facilities across the country.

Mona Shand/Judy Steffes, Public News Service - MO