A smart home ecosystem for people with heart failure

It’s estimated that 511,000 Australians live with heart failure. An innovative project led by Professor Ralph Maddison will help people better manage their condition and improve their quality of life.

Professor Maddison and team are designing and developing a smart ecosystem which connects different elements in the home to support people living with heart failure to better manage their care.

Heart failure is a debilitating disease. As well as the personal burden on those living with disease, it is estimated to cost the healthcare system $3.1 billion annually. Professor Maddison’s NHMRC-funded Ideas Grant project centres on self-management of heart failure, in an effort to prevent hospitalisation and improve health outcomes.

“Self-management requires people to monitor their symptoms, engage in medication, diet and exercise regimens and manage symptoms by recognising changes and responding appropriately, by either changing behaviours and/or by seeking appropriate assistance,” he explained.

“This can be difficult for many people, so we are designing a support system to make it easier.”

The project is broken down into three phases:

In Phase 1, the research team is working with people with heart failure and their primary contact person, as well as healthcare providers and stakeholders to better understand their needs in terms of self-management.

Phase 2 will see the design of possible solutions and prototype features to support people in their self-care activities.

Phase 3 will involve testing the entire ecosystem in a living laboratory situation, whereby users use the system and provide feedback as they use it. Feedback will provide a basis for changes to the system.

Professor Maddison said the ecosystem approach was a significant advance from existing management approaches for people with heart failure, and could potentially be expanded to apply to other health conditions.

“Our Smart-Heart project is based on a new paradigm: a smart home ecosystem providing people with heart failure integrated self-management behaviour monitoring and support in their homes. It will redefine future healthcare,” he said.

The project involves a range of multi-disciplinary partners and collaborators, both in Australia and internationally, to help design an acceptable, usable, and feasible system to benefit people with heart failure.

Professor Maddison plans to apply for further funding to fully evaluate the system before translating into practice.