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Ulster University and DCU take global step forward in battle against cardiovascular disease

Ulster University and Dublin City University (DCU) are pioneering the development of new technology as part of a €5 million research project that aims to significantly increase survival rates of patients with cardiovascular disease – the world’s leading cause of death and disability.

With treatment for cardiovascular disease costing the EU almost €200 billion annually, the revolutionary PATHway project aims to reduce recovery times and increase survival rates by changing lifestyle focused behaviours and empowering patients to take control of their treatment at home. The world-first technology is being developed by Ulster University and DCU in conjunction with European medical and industry partners. The research is being funded by the European Horizon 2020 programme.

It will enable patients to track, monitor and personalise their recovery, using internet-enabled, sensor-based tracking and analysis. The collaboration is part of a 20 year partnership between both universities which aims to maximise research outcomes across the island of Ireland.

Professor Jim McLaughlin, Director of the Engineering Research Institute at Ulster University and its Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre, said: “For cardiovascular disease patients, two of the most important steps towards recovery are feeling in control and taking an active, decision making role in treatment options.

“Traditional hospital based treatments can be isolating and uptake of current community based rehabilitation and structured exercise programmes is typically very low, leading to poor patient outcomes.

“Ulster University’s collaboration with DCU, which will be led by Dr. Dewar Finlay, refines the unique PATHway platform so patients can be offered an effective, results driven solution that they can tailor to personal circumstances. This internationally leading research will have a major impact on the rate and speed of recovery, saving lives and securing vast cost savings for health service providers globally.”

PATHway will increase awareness of negative lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol and smoking that can influence recovery and aims to support a change in behaviour. The internet-based interaction will encourage joint exercise programmes with other patients and support positive mental health by helping patients to share experiences online. A personalised avatar will provide virtual encouragement and support towards key recovery goals.

Dr Kieran Moran, Head of Dublin City University’s School of Health and Human Performance said: “This collaboration will allow key partners to fully understand and address the barriers to lifestyle changes and understand what factors prevent patients from adopting healthier lifestyles that could benefit their long term prognosis.”