The Longevity

Mass General Launches Heart Habits Pilot for Cardiac Patients

Massachusetts General Hospital announced this week a small 24-patient pilot of a new Heart Habits app for managing cardiac care by Jana Care, who previously built apps only for diabetes care.

“Heart failure patients, as we all know, are pretty complex,” Dr. Nasrien Ibrahim, a cardiologist at MGH and one of the lead investigators, told MobiHealthNews. “They have lots of medication regimens, they get lots of instructions from us, and morbidity and mortality is pretty high. So we’re always looking for ways to improve patient care, reduce morbidity and mortality, to keep these patients out of the hospital or the emergency department, and just improve their overall quality of life. And we look for ways to streamline the education we provide them, because they get a ton of instructions on what to do in terms of their diet, their lifestyle modifications, and, on top of that, all the medications they take.”

The idea behind the app is that heart failure patients will take the app home and use it to track their symptoms, as well as having access to educational content within the app. Patients will track weight, sodium and fluid intake, and activity. Patients have access to the data and trend graphs, and it can also be accessed by physicians.

The app will provide visual representations of the patients regularly reported data and, as needed, make suggestions if a problem is detected.

“It teaches patients about when to seek medical attention,” Ibrahim said. “Signs and symptoms, things they should be wary of, whether their weight is going up, whether they’re more short of breath than usual, to seek medical attention before it turns into something potentially more harmful.”

Finally, the app has a messaging capability so patients can use it to get in touch with their care team.

Compared to the diabetic population, said Ibrahim, the cardiac patients are on average older, so Jana Care made some modifications for this demographic.

“….Bigger buttons, bigger text, to make it more user friendly for an older audience that might have a hard time seeing things or might not be as familiar with the smartphone.”

The initial pilot will include 24 patients randomized to either the app or the standard of care — paper documents given to patients to take home. The Mass Gen team will assess whether the app is user friendly, whether patients are adherent to it, and whether patients change their monitoring behavior as a result of the app, as well as whether symptoms improve.

“If the pilot study works, meaning the app is user-friendly, we see improvement in scores, that the patients like it, and that their symptoms have improved, a larger study would involve biomarker testing, outcome measures such as hospital readmissions and emergency department visits, and, essentially, cost as well,” Ibrahim said.

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