LAFAYETTE, La. (ABiz) – A 65-year-old man diagnosed with severe congestive heart failure frequents his local hospital, located 45 miles away, every other week due to his difficulty controlling his heart failure symptoms, knowing each day holds the potential for his heart to suddenly stop working. There have been some really close calls.

But imagine if this patient carried a cardiologist around in his pocket who could monitor him 24/7 and take immediate action over his care the moment his vital signs registered abnormal, allowing his provider to correct his medication before the problem even occurred and keep him out of the hospital altogether.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, approximately 5.8 million people in this country suffer from heart failure, with about 670,000 people diagnosed with the disease each year. And when a patient suffers an attack from some form of congestive heart failure, every second counts — all of which makes the time factor so critical for a patient who lives miles away from his doctor or the nearest emergency room.

Enter Dr. Kevin Courville, a local cardiologist and heart failure specialist.

Courville has developed a software solution that is available as an app on smartphones and mobile devices called HF Defender that can monitor patients no matter where they are and immediately detect when they are going to suffer from heart failure before it happens.

“HF Defender works by monitoring patients at home or wherever they are by putting in daily vital signs and some other parameters that we ask the patient to put in,” Courville tells ABiz.

By inputting their daily vital signs, the software monitors patients that have enrolled in the Prevail Heart Clinic and references their individual medical histories.

From there it extrapolates a set of proprietary data that the clinic then inserts into the HF Defender software, which offers superior diagnostic capabilities that allow it to immediately detect when a patient is going to develop symptoms.

“Each patient gets monitored different than everyone else, like your fingerprint, so it’s a comprehensive solution specific to the individual,” notes Courville. “We monitor the patients daily, and we can actually detect when a patient is going to get sick before they actually get sick, and we call or text or email them and communicate directly to them via these patented medical alerts. We then intervene immediately on the patient so that we keep the patient out of the hospital, out of the emergency room and feeling better.”

Rather than being taken to the hospital or emergency room, Courville says the patients are instead treated at home or brought into a Prevail Heart Clinic to receive medications consistent with the clinical parameters provided by the software to improve the patient’s quality of life and functionality.

There are generally two types of heart failure: systolic and diastolic. The HF Defender system extrapolates 32 specific subsets of heart failure and applies a mathematical algorithm based upon several other co-morbid conditions that a patient might have like diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms or kidney disease, each of which has a specific mathematical weighting that is based on the type of heart failure each patient has.

“So everybody is going to be different, and therefore the app follows a mathematical algorithm that we’ve developed over the course of about five years and have tested it to prove its efficacy,” says Courville. “It allows the patient to float, if you will, within their own determined clinical highs and lows where they are safe, and if it falls out of one of those highs and lows, then an alert is immediately generated from the software directly to the phone or tablet of the physician treating the patient.”

Another key aspect of HF Defender is that it can actually teach health care providers how to properly treat heart failure, which is important considering that primary care doctors who do not specialize in heart failure perform a large portion of heart failure treatment in the country.

“So we teach the patient as they go via a specific module, a patient-specific module, and we teach the provider to improve the skillset using the app,” explains Courville. “We have a separate module for home health agencies and rehab facilities, places that we call post-acute care facilities, and we also have a module set up for emergency rooms.”

The software has immense potential for patients suffering from congestive heart failure who live in more remote, rural areas where the distance to the nearest hospital could mean life or death.

“It was set out to help both rural- and metropolitan-based patients, but specifically to offset the oncoming shortage of cardiologists in the country and the current ongoing shortage of heart failure specialists in the country,” says Courville.

HF Defender can also put a huge dent in the number of unnecessary readmissions for patients suffering from congestive heart failure, potentially saving billions for hospitals across the country.

“Our readmission rate at 60 days was under 6 percent, which is exceedingly low,” says Courville. “The national average is 24.7 percent in 30 days, and so our actual pilot testing was a 60-day trial, and we only had 6 percent readmission, which would essentially erase any hospital penalty for unnecessary readmissions for [congestive heart failure].”

At the moment, HF Defender is exclusively available through the Prevail Heart Clinic, which is located in Lafayette, but Courville says he is planning to open several new clinics across Acadiana in 2015 including Eunice, Ville Platte and New Iberia.

Even more promising is that HF Defender has the added potential to stretch beyond congestive heart failure and into other areas of chronic care conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, glaucoma and chronic kidney disease.

“Since our inception of the model into the heart failure arena, we’ve since used some of the same clinical algorithms and some similar technologies to branch out into what would be considered the most common chronic care conditions that are out there in the world,” notes Courville. “We’ve extrapolated the software now so that we’re branching out into the primary care market so that all primary care physicians or any primary care physician can utilize this within their own practice at a very low cost to them and the patient.”

[This article originally appeared in the May 2015 edition of Acadiana Business (ABiz) Magazine and on]