An avatar-based app can teach patients to recognise symptoms of heart attack and call emergency, according to a study presented today at EuroHeartCare 2018, the European Society of Cardiology’s annual nursing congress.
Patients using the SAVE app were more likely to call an ambulance when they had symptoms, and had fewer hospital admissions. “Most deaths from heart attacks occur within the first few hours of symptom onset,” said Jintana Tongpeth, from Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia and lead author of the study. “The death rate can be halved by getting patients to hospital more quickly.”
An avatar is a simulated digital character that interacts by talking, and using facial expressions and body language. The SAVE app (2) uses an avatar, a nurse named Cora, to teach heart attack warning signs and symptoms, and what to do when they occur. The app has four sections: heart attack warning sign quiz; heart attack signs and symptoms, showing which symptoms are more common in men versus women; what to do when having a heart attack; and heart attack warning signs test.
During the initial development phase, a pilot study in ten heart attack survivors found that using the app improved symptom recognition and knowledge about what to do. These results became the preliminary data for a larger, statistically powered randomised controlled trial.
The trial randomly allocated 70 heart attack survivors to the app. When symptoms occurred, app users were significantly more likely to call an ambulance (89 percent) compared to the usual care group (43 percent). During the six months app users spent less time in hospital for heart problems than patients in the usual care group (3.6 days versus 6.4 days on average, respectively).
At the start of the study, patients in both groups had similar knowledge of heart attack symptoms and how to react. At six months, app users had significantly better knowledge of symptoms and how to react than those who received routine discharge information alone. Some 85 percent of app users said Cora had increased their confidence in recognising heart attack symptoms and knowing how to react.
Tongpeth said: “Our study shows that patients using an avatar-based app are more likely to call emergency if they have heart attack symptoms and spend less time in hospital.” Professor Robyn Clark, study co-author said: “This avatar app will be an essential tool to help overcome these difficulties.”