Author profile picture

GP clinics in London and Wales will receive an AI-powered tool as part of a trial to help improve the diagnosis of a deadly heart condition, says Imperial College London in a press release.

  • A new AI tool could potentially improve the detection of heart failure.
  • Patients will randomly be allocated to receive an AI-stethoscope or continue with usual care.

The TRICORDER programme, let by, amongst others, Imperial College London, will deploy AI-enabled smart stethoscopes to 100 primary care practices to assist clinicians in their evaluation of heart failure. The project is funded by £1.2M. The project is believed to be the first of its kind, sector-wide use of an AI tool in primary care and will assess if the commercially available tool can improve diagnoses for heart failure and reduce costs for the NHS.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump blood effectively. It carries a higher risk of death than most cancers and is increasingly common, affecting 2% of the UK population and consuming 4% of the NHS budget.

The research

A total of 200 GP practices across Northwest London and North Wales, covering more than three million patients, will randomly be allocated to receive an AI-stethoscope or continue with usual care for patients.

Patients visiting their GP using the AI stethoscope will receive a brief, non-invasive heart exam, using an Eko digital stethoscope and app powered by the company’s AI. If the device detects possible signs of cardiac disease, the GP can rapidly start further tests and potentially life-saving treatments.

Patients continuing attending GP clinics not using the AI tool will continue to receive typical care for detection and treatment of heart failure.       

Professor Nicholas Peters, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Heart failure admission alone costs the UK over £2 billion annually, and an unacceptable 80% of these diagnoses are made during emergency admissions.”          

Millions of people

The current gold standard for detecting heart failure is a blood test (NT-proBNP) that when ordered alone, can initiate a long pathway that may fail to achieve early diagnosis and treatment in those who need it most.

According to the researchers, the widespread use of AI tools in primary care has the potential to improve heart disease outcomes for millions of people in the UK.