Posted on Oct 30, 2018

HeartMapp Project Gets Additional Funding, Heads for Pilot Study

HeartMapp Project Gets Additional Funding, Heads for Pilot Study

Four years into developing a mobile application to help heart patients manage their health, USF nurse researchers and engineers with the HeartMapp project are about to begin a pilot study testing a prototype of the app with a small group of patients.

The project, led by College of Nursing Associate Professor Ponrathi Athilingam, PhD, ACNP, MCH, FAANP, FHFSA, and College of Engineering Professor Miguel Labrador, PhD, recently received a $225,000 grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research that will help complete Phase 1 of the project.

The grant was awarded in September to Posit Science Corporation, a San Francisco-based company collaborating with researchers. The company produces brain training software and will supply the cognitive exercises for the app. 

HeartMapp is designed to monitor and treat physical and cognitive symptoms related to heart failure. Heart failure is a leading cause of death in the U.S. with costs estimated at $32 billion a year.

Since the app’s inception, the components for the self-care health tool have evolved, expanded and undergone various modifications based on user feedback, said Dr. Athilingam.

The innovative mobile app serves as a health coach for patients and also has an intuitive online dashboard that helps clinicians, as well as family members and home health care providers, continuously monitor and track patient data.

“Every time we test it, we improve it,” said Dr. Athilingam. “Patients are loving the app, and they give the maximum feedback on how we can improve it. With every modification we did, it was all based on patient feedback.”

In December, researchers plan to begin testing a prototype with a group of 40 patients. The goal is to have half the study group use HeartMapp with its 15 self-care components, including the brain exercises, while the remaining patients will use a similar app that offers access to educational information.

Dr. Athilingam said the brain exercise component was added, because patients with heart failure are four times more likely to have cognitive impairment and develop dementia.

If brain exercises can improve cognition, that would lead to improvement in self-care, quality of life, and perhaps reduce the number of repeated emergency room visits, she said.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing