Seeing is believing: Using wearable cameras to understand self-management of heart failure

Dr Teketo Tegegne led a world first study applying machine-learning techniques to existing wearable camera image data to identify patterns of self-management in people with heart failure.

Heart failure is a chronic condition where the heart does not pump as it should. Beyond medical management, supporting people to self-manage this chronic condition is critical for controlling disease progression, preventing complications, and reducing the burden on the health system. 

For his Dean’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Dr Teketo Tegegne analysed image data collected from people with heart failure who wore wearable cameras for 30 days. The cameras captured images every 30 seconds, resulting in about 2,000,000 images. 

Unlike self-report methods, wearable cameras are more likely to accurately capture a patient’s self-management behaviours, thereby improving the validity of the findings. Dr Tegegne’s findings will ultimately inform a future nurse-led intervention for self-management of heart failure. 

‘These images have been annotated using bespoke software, with only preliminary analysis undertaken. The data provides lived experience of heart failure patients, such as dietary intake, physical activity, and medication adherence as well as information about their individual challenges,’ Dr Tegegne explained. 

‘This data bank of images gives us a unique opportunity to apply machine learning analysis for a more thorough understanding of self management of heart failure. This level of detail and context can then be used to fine-tune future self-management programs,’ he said. 

The specific aims of his fellowship were to: 

  • Quantify types and frequency of self management behaviours in people with heart failure
  • Determine patterns of self-management and whether these differ for those who are readmitted to hospital versus those who are not
  • Determine whether self-management behaviour predicts rehospitalisation
  • Determine the feasibility of a nurse-led intervention to support self-management using wearable camera technology

The project involved collaborations with the Insight group at Dublin City University, Ireland. 

‘It’s an exciting project that will transform our understanding of home-based care for heart failure patients by shifting the focus from reactive care to proactive self-management support,’ Dr Tegegne said.