clinical professional holding a tablet

Westmead team collaborates on health tech with Google

23 May 2023
Addressing cardiovascular disease with innovative, practical and smart solutions.
The Westmead Applied Research Centre (WARC) is leading the way in providing accessible solutions for people with heart disease.

In 2019, Professor Clara Chow, Cardiologist and Academic Director of the Westmead Applied Research Centre (WARC), won the prestigious AI Impact Challenge.

With the $1 million prize, the WARC team has been able to fund the My Intelligent Cardiac Assistant (MICArdiac) trial, an artificial intelligence-optimised mHealth intervention in the form of an app targeted at consumers who may be at risk of heart attacks.

WARC has had a strong collaborative history with Google. In 2017, Professor Chow won the $750,000 Google Impact Challenge which she and her team were able to develop TextCARE a personalised text messaging support program.

The program uses complex algorithms to deliver SMS messages that encourage people to make changes such as taking their medications as prescribed, stopping smoking, taking up exercise or eating more healthily.

MICArdiac, in combination with TextCARE has now been made technically robust in collaboration with the University of Sydney’s Sydney Informatics Hub, and iMSXTM software development.

MICArdiac combines physical activity data from activity trackers, remote blood pressure monitoring and heart rate data and uses AI technology to enhance the personalisation of messaging in an app. 

Transforming digital health with Google

In April, Professor Chow and the WARC team held a showcase event at Google HQ demonstrating their innovative heart disease solutions. The showcase event provided a space for the exploration of ways to transform digital health through collaborations with Google, the government, consumers and clinicians. 

The showcase attracted leading decision-makers in healthcare, including Graeme Loy, Chief Executive of the Western Sydney Local Health District, Professor Andrew Wilson, Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy and Carrie Hayter, Consumer Engagement Manager from Health Consumers NSW.

The event comprised presentations from WARC researchers which was opened by the University of Sydney’s Professor Richard Lindley, facilitated by Associate Professor Sarah Zaman, and three WARC researchers including Professor Chow as well as Dr Liliana Laranjo and Sonali Munot. Anita Kaye from Google Cloud closing the presentations.

Panel and audience members discussed the suitability of the current health system, the barriers to change and the potential value of digital health in providing equity of access to healthcare. There was also discussion as to how to scale digital health interventions and how to identify the useful from commercial digital health interventions.

A subsequent panel discussion was chaired by Professor Tim Shaw, and included Elizabeth Koff AM, Managing Director of Telstra Health and former Secretary of NSW Health, Ray Messom, CEO of Wentwest (Western Sydney Primary Health Network), and Michael Kielty, a consumer representative.

The power of a nudge

For over 10 years Professor Chow has used text message interventions to facilitate behaviour change by nudging consumers to make better, more informed choices.

Professor Chow’s TextCARE education and support programs have been developed, delivered, and evaluated in randomised clinical trials for a range of chronic health conditions.

Education and support programs delivered via text have been shown effective at improving cardiovascular risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol), mental health, patient-reported experiences and behavioural risk factors such as stopping smoking.

The WARC team is currently recruiting 500 participants over the age of 35 who have high blood pressure to test the AI-enhanced technology.

Find out more about participating in the trial.