Secret life of… the cardiologist: advancing innovation while meeting emerging patient needs
Estimated reading time: 3-5 minutes
I’m not sure I have a “secret” life exactly, but a cardiologist’s day certainly provides a degree of variety that most people would not imagine.
When I was working full time at an academic medical center, I would see patients in the hospital, then attend a scientific meeting, move on to consult in the ER or clinic and later on perform an ultrasound exam.
As a noninvasive cardiologist, I work to prevent and manage heart problems through medication and lifestyle changes and perform diagnostic ultrasound tests. I worked with the global pioneers of 3D transesophageal echocardiography (TEE), which allows physicians to get high-resolution, three-dimensional views of the heart and its movement.
At the academic medical center in Madrid, we were all amazed how 3D enabled us to complete ultrasound studies faster and work more collaboratively with interventional cardiologists and surgeons by providing a road map of the heart in real time. Later, I taught 3D echocardiography around the world, helping other clinicians transition to using this important new technology.
Innovations like 3D ultrasound have improved patient care by providing more information to interventional cardiologists and cardiac surgeons as they plan and then perform procedures.
To give you an example of 3D in action, let’s consider its use in diagnosing and managing heart valve disease. It’s primarily a disease of the elderly, so the incidence has been growing and will continue to along with an aging population that’s living longer. In the United States alone, the number of people 80 years or older is expected to increase to approximately 25 million by 2050. As a result, heart valve disease will become an increasing concern. 3D is perfect for a confident assessment of heart valve disease, and to help determine the best course of action quickly.
When intervention is needed, 3D means the heart team – cardiologist, surgeon, sonographer and anesthesiologist working together – can perform procedures with more confidence.
Besides the 3D revolution, what else has had an impact on my “secret” life?
Well, I’m glad to say we’ve succeeded in making the concept of the heart team the standard approach to patient care. On the other hand, as Philips’ Future Health Index reports, cardiovascular disease now tops the World Health Organization list of biggest killers in the world and is rapidly increasing in prevalence. I already see more and more older patients who are generally frail and present with many more chronic health issues, so I need to consider very carefully each patient’s overall quality of life. Sometimes this will mean helping patients live better – not always longer. These are complex decisions that must be made among the heart team with patients and families and clear expectations for outcomes. Perhaps that’s becoming my real professional secret: Increasingly, patient-centered cardiology will be about putting together a complete picture that helps everyone make the best choice.
Going forward, I think cardiology’s biggest challenge is economic.
Many countries around the globe simply don’t have the economic resources to provide the best quality cardiac care to their citizens. We must find more ways to increase access to affordable healthcare, and point-of-care ultrasound can certainly help with this. Our biggest achievement will continue to be the speed of our innovation. A decade ago there was really no hope for many patients who today benefit from exciting advances in cardiology.
For myself, the transition from full-time cardiologist to Philips senior medical director has been a smooth one. I am a key player helping to shape future Philips’ innovations, and I especially enjoy being the intellectual bridge between Philips and cardiologists worldwide.
I still maintain my own practice and am active in academic research. I love being a clinician because building relationships and helping individual patients is gratifying, but now I’m focused on global impact – improving healthcare worldwide by advancing technology.
About Innovation Matters
Innovation Matters delivers news, opinions and features about healthcare, and is focused on the professionals who work within the industry, as well as Philips as a cutting-edge health technology organization. From interviews with industry giants to how-to guides and features powered by Philips data, our goal is to deliver interesting, educational and entertaining content to empower and inspire all those who work in healthcare or related industries.
Cardiologist and Medical Officer for Cardiology and Personal Health, Philips Alexandra Gonçalves is a world-renowned expert in echocardiography with experience in epidemiology and in the development of new clinical applications for echocardiography. Dr. Gonçalves is a cardiologist with an extensive record of multi-disciplinary collaborations spanning the globe, as educator, committee leader, author, and editor.