The newly created HeartCycle consortium, comprising 18 research, academic, industrial and medical organizations from 9 different European countries and China, will work to improve the quality of life for coronary heart disease and heart failure patients by monitoring their condition and involving them in the daily management of their disease. The consortium will also develop mechanisms to automatically report relevant monitoring data back to clinicians so that they can prescribe personalized therapies and lifestyle recommendations.
One of the targeted patient groups suffers from heart failure – a chronic disease for which treatment primarily aims at avoiding or slowing deterioration (disease management). A second group, which is also the largest group within the coronary heart disease patient population, comprises patients who have suffered a myocardial infarction (heart attack). Patients in this group are keen to avoid a second infarction, and their therapy is therefore aimed at so-called secondary prevention.
Although the goal of treatment is different for these two groups – i.e. disease management versus secondary prevention – the two groups share many risk factors that influence their health status. Management of these risk factors therefore has a large impact on the prognosis for both groups. As a result, the therapeutic tools used to treat coronary heart disease and heart failure, as well as many of the illnesses typically associated with heart disease (so-called co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes and heart arrhythmia) are similar.
Treatments typically involve taking the right medication at the right time, regularly assessing clinical symptoms, and adequate and appropriate exercise. Exercise, in particular, not only improves patients’ well-being and quality of life but also augments their physical capacity and improves their prognosis. However, because each individual patient has a different set of co-morbidities and health considerations, disease management plans that are rolled out across large populations must be flexible enough to address these different co-morbidities and health considerations.
Compliance to prescribed therapies is a common problem associated with long-term treatment, and will become even more problematic as the European population ages and chronic disease becomes more prevalent. There is strong evidence that increasing the level of patient compliance may have a far greater impact on the health of the population than improvements in specific medical treatments. The HeartCycle project intends to tackle this in two ways.
Firstly by creating a 'patient loop' that gives patients continuous feedback on their state of health, their progress towards achieving health status milestones, plus motivational tips and suggestions for a healthy lifestyle and diet. In the course of the project it will be investigated whether such measures will improve the adherence to prescribed therapies. Monitoring each patient’s condition will be achieved using a combination of unobtrusive bio-sensors built into the patient’s clothing or bed sheets and home appliances such as weighing scales and blood pressure monitors. Sensing of an individual patient’s physical exertion, body orientation and ambient environment will provide additional information so that the system can put the monitoring data into context.
Secondly by enabling a 'professional loop' in which relevant data on a patient’s state of health and therapy adherence is automatically communicated to a hospital information system. This professional loop will allow doctors to monitor each patient’s condition and therapy response in order to create optimized individual care plans, as well as allowing them to identify deterioration or sudden cardiac events that require immediate remedial action.
The HeartCycle project is broken up into a number of work-packages that include the collection and collation of relevant expert medical knowledge; research into new bio-sensors (particularly for the continuous monitoring of blood pressure, blood oxygen levels and heart function); the development of algorithms to analyze and combine the monitoring data; the definition of patient loop and professional loop architectures and interfaces; and the validation of patient benefits.
The HeartCycle project, for which Philips Research is acting as project coordinator, is one of the largest biomedical and healthcare research projects within the European Union (EU). It will run for four years and has a budget of around 20.7 million Euro, of which 14.1 million Euro will be funded by the European Union as part of the EU 7th Framework Program.
HeartCycle Consortium membership (in alphabetical order)
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece); Clothing Plus Oy (Finland); CSEM Centre Suisse D'electronique Et De Microtechnique Sa (Switzerland); Empirica Gesellschaft für Kommunikations und Technologieforschung mbH (Germany); Faculdade Ciencias e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra (Portugal); Fundación Vodafone España (Spain); Hospital Universitario Clínico San Carlos (Spain); Instituto de Aplicaciones de las Tecnologías de la Información y de las Comunicaciones Avanzadas (Spain); Medtronic Ibérica SA (Spain); Philips Electronics Nederland B.V. (The Netherlands); Philips Research (Germany); Politecnico Di Milano - Dipartimento di Bioingegneria (Italy); Rheinisch Westfälische Technische Hochschule (Germany); T-Systems ITC Iberia SA (Spain); Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain); Chinese University of Hong Kong (China); University of Hull (United Kingdom); Valtion Teknillinen Tutkimuskeskus (Finland).