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DCU Researchers to develop exercise technology to aid cardiovascular disease (CVD) rehabilitation

  • DCU researchers developing new Connected Health technology to create interactive home exercise programmes for CVD patients
  • CVD is the leading cause of premature death in EU
  • CVD rehabilitation programmes extend length and quality of patient’s life
  • An avatar, who will deliver ongoing tailored behavioural change programmes as well as act as a personal trainer to provide online exercise instruction, will monitor the patient’s response through use of sensors

Researchers at Dublin City University, led by DCU’s Dr Kieran Moran (Head, School of Health & Human Performance; Funded Investigator - Insight Centre for Data Analytics), are leading a €4.9 m research project which aims to improve the rehabilitation experience of patients recovering from Cardio-Vascular Disease (CVD), the leading cause of premature death and disability in Europe and worldwide, which costs the EU economy almost €196 billion every year. 

The project, funded under EU’s biggest ever Research and Innovation programme brings together  DCU’s School of Heath and Human Performance, Insight Centre for Data Analytics, and Business School, with local hospital partners (Mater and Beaumont) and a consortium of European Universities, Industry Partners and Hospitals [Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (Greece), Ulster University, University of Glasgow, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), Electronic Record Services BV (Netherlands), Nurogames GmbH (Germany), and Engineering IT (Italy)].

The project testifies to DCU’s leading role in Ireland and Europe in the area of Connected and Personalised Health.

Currently, CVD patients are referred to community-based programmes which often have very low levels of uptake and even higher rates of patient drop-out.  Reasons cited for this include long travel times, being overwhelmed by large groups, perceived poor body image and lack of confidence to complete the exercises.

Prof. O'Connor (Funded Investigator in Insight Centre for Data Analytics), who will coordinate the DCU based development of the required technology, explained:

“The PATHway (Physical Activity Towards Health) project will develop Connected Health technologies to create personalised rehabilitation programmes for patients, allowing them to remotely take part in exercise sessions in the privacy of their own homes, receive immediate feedback and, more generally, adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Instruction and advice will be provided by an online avatar and user feedback can be recorded through the use of sensors placed on the patient as they perform their exercises.  The technology will ultimately enable the patient to develop, in conjunction with his or her avatar, a comprehensive lifestyle intervention programme to include physical activity, smoking, diet, stress management, alcohol use and medication compliance.”

Dr Catherine Woods (also from the School of Health and Human Peroformance, DCU), who is Clinical Director of PATHway and an international expert on Behavioural Change, says:

“Central to this work is behavioural change, where PATHway will deliver tailored messaging to ecourage participants to positively alter their lifestyle. In addition, participants will be able to link with each other socially to undertake exercise programmes simultaneously from the comfort of their own home and support each other emotionally. All of the exercise and physical activity of a participant and their interactions with PATHway will be monitored using home and mobile sensors, to allow the data to be mined to extract important “knowledge” which will ultimately be used to tailor the participant’s exercise and behavioural change programmes more effectively.”

The project was launched by Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English T.D. who said,

“I congratulate DCU, Dr Kieran Moran and the project partners for their success in winning EU funding, via Horizon 2020, for this important project.  The PATHway project has the potential to create real, positive benefits for the quality of life of people with cardiovascular disease." 

Dr Kieran Moran, (Head of DCU’s School of Health & Human Performance; Funded Investigator in Insight Centre for Data Analytics) who is co-ordinating the project explained:

“While everyone is aware of the well proven life-enhancing and life-extending benefits from physical activity and exercise for Cardiac Rehabilitation, uptake and adherence is extremely poor. There are many barriers to participation in community-based programmes, including: no nearby medically appropriate programmes, travel time, scheduling issues, lack of peer mentoring, low self-confidence related perceived poor exercise technique and perceived poor ‘body image’. We have put together an internationally renowned group of experts from the fields of behavioural change, cardiac rehabilitation, exercise science, health economics, technology and games development to develop the PATHway platform to help people better self-manage their health, change their inappropriate lifestyle behaviours, and most importantly, increase their levels of exercise and physical activity”.

The announcement of this new research project is a significant milestone in a new cross-border partnership between DCU and the University of Ulster which will develop joint research and teaching initiatives over the coming years.  Professor Hugh McKenna, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research at Ulster University said,

“The PATHway project is significant for two reasons: it is pioneering global advances in cardiovascular focused technology; and it is evidence of Ulster University's continued partnership with DCU. Over 20 years, this partnership has supported and stimulated cross border collaboration and has delivered wide-ranging, positive impact across a number of core areas.

PATHway is a world-leading project which will deliver benefits to patients and healthcare providers globally by significantly improving the rate and speed of patient recovery, saving lives and securing vast cost savings for health service providers. It is precisely the type of project that proves the importance of investment in university research as it as it ensures a wealth of knowledge and innovation can be harnessed and shared."

Principal investigators from DCU include:

School of Health and Human Performance: Dr Kieran Moran, Dr Catherine Woods, Prof Niall Moyna, Dr Noel McCaffrey

Insight Centre for Data Analytics: Dr Kieran Moran, Prof Noel O’Connor, Dr David Monaghan, Dr Suzanne Little, Zhenxing Zhang.

Business School: Prof Regina Connelly, Paul Davis.

Prof. Niall Moyna (School of Health and Human Performance, Insight Centre for Data Analytics), Dr Noel McCaffrey (School of Health and Human Performance, MedEx),



5th March, 2015
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