James K. Min, MD, FACC, FESC, MSCCT, Founder & CEO of Cleerly: January 28, 2022
Historically, our diagnostic approaches to patients with suspected heart disease have been restricted to the evaluation of patients with symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath. Yet, these diagnostic methods fail for the >50% of individuals who will suffer a heart attack without any prior symptoms. This traditional approach misses the majority of heart attack victims for whom heart disease is a “silent killer” that can be prevented through early detection, simple lifestyle changes, and low-cost medical therapy.
Heart disease remains the #1 public health epidemic in the world, causing 1 death every 1.7 seconds. As the leading cause of death and morbidity, heart disease causes more deaths each year than all cancers combined.
Cleerly is a digital healthcare company that is transforming the evaluation of heart disease through precision heart care that measures actual heart disease—atherosclerosis (plaque) that builds up in the walls of the heart arteries—over indirect markers of heart disease, as has been the historical approach. We apply advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology to non-invasive computed tomography (CT) scans to provide physicians and patients with a heart attack prevention approach that is more personalized and proactive.
Our solutions offer accurate, precise, simple, and rapid heart disease evaluation, with the information delivered to each and every stakeholder in the heart attack prevention care pathway – be they radiologists, primary care physicians, cardiologists, or patients and their caregivers. Through innovative reporting techniques, physicians can now knowingly provide personalized treatment plans and determine whether these treatments are actually halting the progression of heart disease, dramatically improving clinical outcomes, and drastically reducing the costs associated with late-stage cardiovascular care.
Cleerly offers a new and differentiated digital care pathway to prevent heart attacks by delivering the most useful information to physicians and patients in a manner that is simple, stepwise, and logical.
These steps include:
identify and measure actual heart disease, not indirect markers of disease
Historical approaches to evaluating heart disease have relied upon measuring risk factors, such as cholesterol levels in individuals without symptoms; and stress testing in individuals with symptoms to determine whether blood flow is reduced to the heart muscle, a condition known as ischemia. For individuals with symptoms, patients with abnormal stress tests are often referred for invasive coronary angiograms to determine whether a narrowing of the heart artery (referred to as a stenosis) is the cause of ischemia. When considering this diagnostic approach, indirect markers such as risk factors, ischemia and stenosis do not actually measure heart disease, which is the atherosclerosis (plaque) itself.
Through research performed over the last 15 years, the field of cardiology has discovered that there is not one but rather many different types of heart disease. Some types of atherosclerosis (plaque) are very dangerous and represent the strongest predictor of which patients will suffer future heart attacks. In contrast, some types of atherosclerosis (plaque) are very stable and, in some cases, can protect against heart attacks. Cleerly’s AI-enabled analyses allow for whole-heart assessment of all of the arteries and their branches for quantification and characterization of the different types of atherosclerosis (plaque) that affect a patient; this allows for a precise understanding of a patient’s heart condition.
Leveraging whole-heart analysis can improve diagnosis and support physicians in their determination of an individual’s risk of heart attack based on atherosclerosis and integration of other contributors of heart disease including genetic, clinical, social, and environmental factors.
translate advanced imaging insights for all healthcare professionals
At Cleerly, we study advanced imaging findings related to heart disease in order to better understand the different types of heart disease, and how treatment with medications and lifestyle affect atherosclerosis (plaque) over time. The improved evaluation of heart disease from advanced imaging is a large step forward towards better understanding heart disease and heart attack prevention.
We recognize that most healthcare professionals are not familiar with advanced non-invasive imaging and may not be aware of the latest research findings. To address this, Cleerly’s digital care pathway translates advanced imaging into actionable clinical insights that can be readily understood and acted upon in real-time by all healthcare professionals, including primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, general cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, radiologists and many others.
empower patients with knowledge to improve health literacy
After taking care of heart disease patients for two decades, we have observed that patients are much more proactive and involved with improving their health when they actually understand their disease conditions. In this regard, traditional medical reports that we give to patients offer very little guidance in helping them better understand their condition. These reports are too often specialized and require a medical degree to understand.
At Cleerly, we believe that preventing heart attacks requires a team, and the most important member of the team is the patient. While Cleerly’s precision diagnostics are powered by advanced machine learning to deliver precise results on the type and amount of disease present, the results of the Cleerly analysis are provided to patients using web-based interactive tools, personalized reports, and educational resources that help patients make informed decisions about their health.
treat and track disease
Evidence-based, precision medicine for cardiology care is critical for treating actual disease over indirect markers of disease. In this regard, Cleerly has partnered with the American College of Cardiology to emphasize heart disease – atherosclerosis (plaque) – as a primary therapeutic target to encourage physicians to leverage medications and lifestyle interventions that have been proven to reduce the risk of a heart attack.
While our therapeutic “toolbox” for heart attack prevention is heavy—with more than 20 different medications and countless lifestyle changes that are effective at reducing heart attacks—these medications may have different relative benefits in different individuals. In prior studies, the rate of progression of heart disease varies among individuals with rapid progressors of heart disease and those not responding well to medical therapy experiencing the worst prognosis. Cleerly’s technology allows not only for a single evaluation of heart disease, but enables physician tracking of therapeutic success over time to prove that the treatments have halted disease progression and stabilized the atherosclerosis (plaque).
a new paradigm for heart attack prevention
Cleerly’s AI-enabled digital care pathway advances a new paradigm of care that empowers physicians and patients to (1) improve diagnosis, sooner and with greater accuracy and precision; (2) enhance understanding for all stakeholders in the care pathway; (3) guide personalized treatment, whether lifestyle or medical therapy; and (4) track therapeutic success by assessing disease progression and plaque transformation. In doing so, Cleerly’s digital care pathway supports heart attack prevention as the primary goal over more historical approaches where symptom relief is the end goal. We believe that all patients with significant heart disease should be identified early to optimize treatment and prevention. Our AI-enabled digital care pathways model with the translation of advanced imaging science into actionable clinical insights is the first of its kind for evaluating heart disease risk and developing personalized treatment and prevention plans.
While providers have leveraged advanced imaging to encourage personalized medicine to prevent the most common causes of cancer, personalized medicine has not been available for heart attack prevention. Cleerly is making this a reality.