Harnessing the Power of Data to Improve Healthcare

Technology team members at Abbott works with data to power smarter medical devices, one heartbeat at time.

CHANGING LIVES     |    Sep. 2, 2022

At Abbott, data power the science behind life-changing medical devices. Ashish Bhargava, senior director of software engineering, and his team of technologists harness electrophysiology data to deliver insights that shape present and future patient care.

With a background in computer science, Ashish has spent his entire career in MedTech, working with startups and global medical device manufacturers, across technologies such as remote patient management, cardiac monitoring wearables and neuromodulation.

Throughout his career, Ashish sought to work on healthcare innovations that help improve people’s lives. In 2018, that quest brought him to Abbott’s electrophysiology business.

Seeing Inside the Heart in Real-Time

Ashish leads a team focused on the software that helps in the diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a health condition that causes an irregular heartbeat and can increase the risk of stroke. The team develops cardiac mapping systems that use the electromagnetic signals from a patient’s heart to create 3D models showing the heart’s inner workings.

With this real-time visualization, physicians can determine the origin of atrial fibrillation. Then, they can precisely treat that area of the heart—using heat or cold – to scar or remove tissue in the heart wall and restore a regular heartbeat. These cardiac ablation procedures are sometimes required when a person with AFib doesn’t respond to medication.

Ashish’s team is constantly refining the data-driven software behind the cardiac mapping systems.

“Our technology can handle immense amounts of data in a short period,” Ashish said. “Think of the computing power you’d need to build a video game—except that, in these procedures, you are working with the human heart. Getting to engineer such a vital product is what makes our work so challenging and fulfilling.”

The Next Evolution of Data

Now, Ashish’s team is helping to make the devices smarter with every procedure and unlock a more precise approach to AFib treatment. These systems collect data from thousands of cases over time, and within this data, scientists and clinicians can find ways to better diagnose and treat patients to improve their outcomes.

“We aim to leverage this data to better understand the mechanism for atrial fibrillation and what happens within the heart tissue to cause an episode,” Ashish said. “From there, clinicians can precisely pinpoint where AFib originates.”

Ashish’s team hopes that one day, doctors can use data from each patient’s heart to identify a personalized cure for AFib, factoring in a person’s health history and other medical conditions.

From Ashish’s perspective, the power of data is both personal and collective, offering the opportunity to unlock precision medicine at scale.

“The impact of data in healthcare can't be overestimated,” he said. “We’re uncovering the secrets in the data—why diseases happen, what causes certain symptoms, why people respond differently to the same condition. We still have a long way to go to understand why these things happen, and data gives us the ability to start moving diagnosis and treatment closer to the science.”

A Need for Technologists

Ashish’s team is working on a cloud-connected system that will transfer anonymized data from within hospitals to a cloud-based environment for analysis. In the future, applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to these data sets could further refine the diagnosis and treatment process.

“Building smarter, more intelligent systems will depend on our ability to do artificial intelligence and machine learning in the cloud and then feed those learnings back to the hospital systems before the procedure starts,” Ashish said.

As Abbott continues to invest in digital technologies and builds its data science capability, the company has many opportunities for people to help lead the evolution of data. Ashish’s team is continuing to grow. They need people who can analyze and interpret data. With that in mind, they’re recruiting cloud infrastructure technologists.

“We’re looking for people in every discipline associated with cloud infrastructure, artificial intelligence and machine learning—data scientists, data architects, cybersecurity specialists, engineers, architects, and full-stack developers,” Ashish said.

Ashish and his peers recognize they’re competing for talent and that Abbott’s mission sets it apart.

“We hire people who are interested in truly making a difference with their careers and knowing that everything they do directly impacts patients for the better,” Ashish said.