EchoRight Pro app aims to speed pulmonary hypertension diagnosis

Game-style use of real-world echocardiography cases to teach signs of PH

Margarida Maia, PhD avatar

by Margarida Maia, PhD |

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A new game-style app aims to help doctors and medical imaging technicians learn to better identify signs of pulmonary hypertension (PH) on an echocardiogram, an ultrasound image of the heart.

Called EchoRight Pro and developed by Janssen, the free app is available from Apple’s App Store or Android’s Google Play. It’s intended for use by cardiologists, echocardiographers, and sonographers.

While not a diagnostic tool, the app can be an educational resource for doctors in making a timely diagnosis of PH and moving patients onto treatment as soon as possible.

“The scientific community has a wealth of clinical data that points to the positive impact of earlier treatment initiation on patient outcomes,” Sean Studer, MD, vice president of medical affairs at Janssen, said in an email response to Pulmonary Hypertension News.

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Diagnosing PH can take time because its symptoms often develop over a long period and are similar to those of other heart and lung conditions.

PH is due to a narrowing of the arteries that carry blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs, causing a rise in blood pressure that can overtax the heart. Its first symptoms are often subtle and can include shortness of breath, tiredness, chest pain, and swelling in the legs and ankles.

An echocardiogram is “arguably the most important non-invasive screening tool” for PH, raising a suspicion of the disease that can lead to more definitive diagnostic tests like right heart catheterization, Studer said.

The same goes for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), one of the five types of PH.

Delays in a timely taking of diagnostic steps, however, are common.

“We are still not where we need to be when patients with PAH go undiagnosed for an average of two to three years following initial visits with physicians in which they discuss symptoms,” he said. “Far too many patients have already progressed to the most advanced stages of PAH when initially diagnosed.”

For Studer, this could be because doctors “may have received little formal education regarding PH and also had limited real-world experience given that this is a rare disease.” Their focus tends to be more on ”left heart parameters.”

“What’s more, due to the complex anatomy of the right ventricle [one of the heart’s bottom chambers], studies show a gap between recommended approaches to echocardiographic assessment of right ventricular function and actual real-world clinical practices,” he added.

For all these reasons, “it is critical that healthcare professionals become familiar with the current guidelines for using echocardiograms to evaluate the probability of PH, which is an important step in the diagnosis of PAH, and to gain experience applying up-to-date, standardized assessment methods,” Studer said.

EchoRight Pro, created to give such knowledge to healthcare professionals, draws on nearly 100 real-world clinical scenarios put together by four PH experts in France.

After reviewing a clinical case whose audio and video clips come from a real-world echocardiogram, app users are challenged with game-style questions to evaluate the probability of PH based on a combination of eight echocardiogram signs.

Answers are scored, and users can progress through a series of cases of increasing difficulty stored on an interactive library, according to a video on the app’s website.

“The app also provides instant feedback and connects [healthcare professionals] with additional resources to continue learning about the recommended PH treatment guidelines for each scenario,” Studer said. Users gain “valuable exposure to echocardiography outputs and diagnostic insight across a broad spectrum of cases.”

One professional, who Studer identified as a “key opinion leader,” considered EchoRight Pro “a great teaching tool, especially for residents and fellows since they don’t get formal training on how to interpret echocardiography [images] to assess probability of PH.”

Janssen reports that EchoRight Pro is currently being used by more than 3,000 healthcare professionals in nearly 50 countries.

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