Need to calculate ASCVD risk? There's an app for that

Ty Cluckman

April 16, 2014

As providers adjust to the overhauled lipid guidelines, a new mobile app is helping to make treatment decisions easier, thanks in part to Providence cardiologist Ty Gluckman, M.D., FACC, FAHA.

Dr. Gluckman was the lead content developer for the ASCVD Risk Estimator, an app for smart phones, tablets and personal computers that helps calculate risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease – now the key metric for determining statin therapy. The app was produced by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association as a companion tool to their updated cholesterol guidelines published last November. Click for larger image

“We wanted an app that was usable for patients and providers,” says Dr. Gluckman, who serves on the editorial board of the American College of Cardiology’s website, CardioSource. “We have algorithms from the guidelines that cover everything from who may need their risk estimated to what does the risk mean and what should be done.”

Users enter their age, gender, race, cholesterol levels (total and HDL) and systolic blood pressure. They're also asked if they’re being treated for hypertension, have diabetes or smoke. Depending on their score, the app may suggest varying intensity of statin therapy on top of risk-reducing lifestyle changes. It doesn't replace clinical judgment, but it can help guide conversations between patients and their care providers.

The ASCVD Risk Estimator currently is not available through Epic, but it can be accessed for free through:

Besides the calculator, the app has reference material for clinicians on statin therapy, including appropriate use, dosage, monitoring and safety. A tab for patients explains cardiovascular risk and offers recommendations on diet, exercise, weight management and cholesterol.

Other apps are entering the marketplace, but so far this is the only one that provides clinical and patient education information in addition to the calculator.

Since its launch in early February, the app has been downloaded more than 64,000 times and is being used an average of 6,000 times a day. A medical app review site called it a “must-have app” for primary care providers and cardiologists.

Although tech reviewers wonder why the ACC/AHA introduced a companion app three months after publishing their revised lipid guidelines, others may wonder how developers did it so quickly. The ACC is not a tech start-up, and many practicing physicians still rely on wall charts or pocket guides for best-practice references. 

“Many of these guideline documents are 50, 70 or 100 pages long,” Dr. Gluckman says. “To get people aware of changes in the guidelines is challenging even with abbreviated versions.”

When it published the updated lipid guidelines this past November, the ACC/AHA recommended putting the risk calculator on an Excel spreadsheet. Dr. Gluckman and his colleagues pushed back.

“The digital age has come about,” he says, “We realized that app development has got to be an integral component to the ACC’s digital strategy. Providers need, and frankly deserve, ways to improve care at their fingertips.”