Heart disease is a massive killer. It is currently the leading cause of premature death in the world, and a good number of those deaths are easily preventable.
Exercise is like a free wonder drug for people rehabilitating from heart disease. It reduces the likelihood of patients dying prematurely from a cardiac event by a full 25 per cent. But research has found that only one out of every ten patients participate in a cardiac rehabilitation programme after leaving hospital.
An Irish led consortium of researchers in academia, industry and health is working on ways of using technology to improve these numbers. The group is led by Dr Kieran Moran of Ireland’s Insight Centre for Data Analytics at DCU.
Dr Moran says, “While patients tend to be aware of the benefits of exercise there are a number of barriers for people who want to exercise after a cardiac event. They not only have the usual barriers such as time constraints and ‘exercising takes effort’, that we all have, they also cannot find classes relevant to them. They want to exercise with others recovering from the same condition and often feel that they won’t be able to do the exercises. The use eHealth and other technological solutions may offer an alternative.”
Dr Moran’s Insight team, in collaboration with 10 university, industrial and hospital partners have developed PATHway, an internet and sensor driven home-based exercise cardiac rehabilitation system. PATHway allows patients to exercise with an instructor avatar from the comfort of their own home. The system also allows them to link with others using the system, so that they can exercise together and talk to each other.
Patients can exercise safely at home. PATHway will monitor their heart rate and instruct them to slow down or speed up depending on what is needed. It offers a virtual community, as well as a way for care givers to monitor compliance and progress.
The PATHway system is being demonstrated at the European Summit on Digital Innovation for Active & Healthy Ageing on the 6-7 December 2016 in Brussels.