Coronary artery disease (CAD) is caused by an accumulation of plaques within the walls of the arteries that supply the myocardium with oxygen and nutrients. After decades of progression, some of these plaques may rupture, triggering activation of the blood clotting system and thereby limiting blood flow to the myocardium, resulting in acute coronary syndrome (ACS). This can range from a heart attack (myocardial infarction) meaning that muscle cell necrosis in the affected regions of the myocardium has occurred, or unstable angina, meaning that the patient has persistent or recurrent chest pain while resting, but there is no evidence of myocardial necrosis.

Risk factors include age, sex, and family history but also lifestyle-related aspects such as smoking, drinking, physical inactivity, excess weight, etc. Despite the advantages, use of cardiac rehabilitation for phase III remains low. Recent research supports the beneficial effects of cardiac rehabilitation in patients with heart failure as well as in older patients. Unfortunately, cardiac rehabilitation continues to be considerably underused with poor referral and inclusion rates. Implementing quality performance measures, automated referral systems, and the option of home-based cardiac rehabilitation for some patients may all help to increase participation. In addition, innovative exercise training regimes may help to enhance the beneficial effects of cardiac rehabilitation.

HEARTWAYS is a research project financed by the European Commission, with the aim of developping an advanced modular solution for supporting cardiac patients in rehabilitation that functions without the support of a medical environment. The solution under development includes wearable sensors and intelligent algorhythms to create specific applications and personalised treatment geared towards each individual patient and their healthcare professional.

The proposed solution is structured on three different levels. The first one, the monitoring layer, is composed of a combination of smart and wearable sensors, specialised in the monitoring of the vital signs needed for the diagnosis of targeted patients; the second level implements a multiparametric analysis and processing layer that augments the information provided by the standalone monitoring modules and allows a multiparametric assessment of the patient’s status, evolution, rehabilitation performance and possible cardiovascular risk. The third level targets an improvement in the way patients are managed by healthcare professionals and creates mechanisms enabling personalised support for the patient. As a result, the focus is on encouraging simpler control of patients without reducing the quality of care, whilst increasing the possibilities of handling more patients and maximising use of the available resources, adapting these to the concrete needs of individual patients. The project also looks to increase the capabilities of the solution to combine medical knowledge and recommendations with patient preferences, as well as incorporating a comprehensive motivation and psychological support strategy that complements and reinforces the treatment guidelines.

The consortium of the HeartWays project is made up of a combination of innovative SMEs working in the area of ICT for health, and a group of R&D centres of excellence, with the goal of supporting innovation in European SMEs, and expanding innovative products by reaching out to new markets. The project partners come from four different European countries: Spain, Italy, Croatia and Portugal, and have the experience and the complementary expertise necessary for application of the project.

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme managed by REA-Research Executive Agency (FP7-SME-2012, Research for SMEs) under grant agreement nº 315659.

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