WeChat tackles the heart of the matter

Curtin University researchers have collaborated to design an education program to assist patients with coronary heart disease in Shanghai.

Picture: Sinchen.Lin & Wong128hk.

WeChat was the social media platform selected for the smartphone-based cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention program known as SMART-CR/SP. 

Curtin University School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science Associate Professor and co-author of the study Andrew Maiorana said coronary heart disease was one of the leading causes of death in China. 

“The aim of this study was to trial a novel and innovative cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention program delivered via social media for patients,” he said. 

“We recruited patients who had an acute coronary syndrome and then provided them with a targeted support plan to assist them with their rehabilitation.”

Dr Maiorana said the WeChat application could be linked with peripheral devices— such as step counters, heart rate monitors and blood pressure monitors.

“We used the data from peripheral devices to discover how much activity people were doing, their blood pressure level and heart rate,” he said.

“An exciting part of this study is the fact that we can use the technology we have access to in Perth, to provide our expertise in cardiac rehabilitation and support Chinese patients in managing their condition.”

Ignite China director Cheech Foo said WeChat was considered the swiss knife of social media. 

“Its ecosystem has now grown to include features such as business accounts, banking, e-commerce stores, mini programs and more,” he said. 

“With over a billion daily active users, WeChat has embedded itself as a part of the fabric of Chinese society.”

Curtin University School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science PhD student and lead author of the study Tashi Dorje said they recruited 312 patients for this study in 2017.

“The mean age was 60.5,” he said.

“Traditional rehabilitation methods usually involve one-way communication between the patient and the health care provider.

Tashi Dorje. Picture: Tashi Dorje.

“The beauty of this study is that we can provide two-way communication and deliver medical support to patients who live on the other side of the world.”

Dr Dorje said there were many risk factors associated with heart disease present in China such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and a lack of access to education.

“The intervention itself was a six-month process,” he said.

“We are planning to do a 24 month follow up with patients to see if the benefits of the study remain.

 “The majority of the feedback from the patients was positive as the education content was found to be very engaging.”’

Curtin University School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science PhD student Anna Scheer assisted in the development of an educational cartoon on WeChat. 

Ms Scheer said there were not many resources available for heart patients in Chinese hospitals.

“It’s not like here in Perth where heart patients can speak with medical staff and get one on one attention,” she said.

“We selected a cartoon series to get the information across.

Examples of the education features on WeChat. Picture: Anna Scheer.

“This kept the content visual and light-hearted.”

Ms Scheer said she made it easier for patients to engage with the content by creating a character named Mr Li. 

“The cartoon follows Mr Li’s journey to recovery from coronary heart disease,” she said.

“The cartoon covers all the core components of cardiac rehabilitation such as dietary, exercise and medical information.

“It is the same information we give to patients here in Perth.”

Patients access the free education program through an app store equivalent on WeChat.

Categories: Health, Technology