Smart app helps cardiac rehab in the home

Patients recovering from heart attacks are more likely to successfully complete rehabilitation when they do it at home using a new smartphone app compared to those who have to travel to outpatient clinics, new CSIRO research shows.

CSIRO has developed a smartphone-based home care delivery model known as the Care Assessment Platform (CAP) that has been trialled at the Prince Charles, Redcliffe and Caboolture hospitals in Queensland.

So successful has the trial been that it will soon be offered at Ipswich Hospital and in the Metro North and West Moreton Hospital and Health Services.

The clinical trial, conducted through the Australian eHealth Research Centre, a joint venture between the CSIRO and Queensland Health, randomised patients in traditional, centre-based rehab programs and a program using the CAP platform. It involved six weeks of cardiac rehab followed by six months of self-maintenance.

The results, published in the journal Heart, showed that the CAP program had significantly higher uptake (80 per cent vs 62 per cent), adherence (94 per cent vs 68 per cent ) and completion (80 per cent vs 47 per cent) rates than the traditional program.

The CAP program is delivered in the participants' homes through the app, which includes health and exercise monitoring tools and motivational and educational material delivery, as well as through weekly mentoring consultations.

There are a number of other programs around the country using technology to help patients to complete rehab, including South Australia's CATCH program, which offers a web-based system.

Cardiac rehab programs have proven to have better outcomes for patients following myocardial infarction but many patients fail to complete the programs, particularly as they have to travel every week to the outpatients clinic or they live in rural or remote areas.

Lead researcher Mohan Karunanithi said traditional programs usually take the form of group-based exercise and educational activities and are designed to help patients return to an active, satisfying life. However, despite the benefits, uptake is generally poor due to factors such as time constraints, accessibility, lack of referral and patient motivation.

"The smartphone app offers another choice, overcoming one of the key barriers to patient participation and recovery,” Dr Karunanithi said. “By integrating rehab with a patient’s daily life, they are more likely to complete the program and make their new healthy lifestyle permanent.”

The National Heart Foundation's Rachelle Foreman said programs such as CAP can improve access for people living in rural areas as well as high-risk groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The research team is now adapting the platform for rehabilitation for other chronic conditions such as pulmonary disease and diabetes.

Dr Karunanithi is also a lead researcher for CSIRO's Safer Smarter Homes platform, which involves a sensor-based in-home monitoring system to enable older people to live longer at home.

The platform combines hardware such as sensors and iPads with software such as apps and family and medical portals, and uses broadband connectivity to support sensor technology and connect residents with healthcare practitioners, family and friends.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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