Welcome to the Change of Heart Project


Change of Heart is a research project by the University of Washington’s Information School and the Division of Biomedical and Health Informatics in the School of Medicine. The goal of this project is to help patients with heart disease find ways to live a more healthy lifestyle. The two main aims of this project are: (1) to understand how a patient’s lifestyle and daily routines promote heart-healthy habits or keep unhealthy habits in place, and (2) to develop user-friendly technologies that can help heart patients to make lifestyle changes that will reduce their cardiac risks.

An Individual’s level of physical activity, diet, and other health-related activities are shaped by her daily routines, environments in which she lives and works, and the people with whom she spends her time. Sometimes these factors negatively influence heart health. For example, breaks at work may be spent talking to other coworkers in the kitchenette – but also eating donuts. Similarly, if a person lives in an area where there are no sidewalks, it is difficult to walk regularly—whether simply for exercise or for transportation. Conversly, a person's circumstances can also support healthy activities. Having a dog, for example, makes it easier to get regular physical activity since at least some walking is built into every day. This project explores how factors such as these affect health-related activities and develops tools that patients can use to reflect on their own patterns, discover opportunities for healthy activities, and involve their family members and friends in helping them forge habits that will keep their hearts healthy.

Our approach

To do this, we use mobile phones and small wearable sensors to enable patients to easily keep track of their health-related activities and the context in which these activities take place. The information collected with these devices is uploaded, in real time, to the patient’s account on Microsoft HealthVault. The patient can then use sophisticated web tools to explore, trend and reflect on her data. For example, she can look for relationships between different types of activity (e.g., how the amount of sleep she gets at night affects how physically active she is the following day), or possible connections between the patient's health-related activity and other aspects of her lifestyle (e.g., how spending time with a particular friend affects the patient's diet).

These tools will allow patients to discover opportunities to make healthy changes in their routines and to identify concrete obstacles that stand in the way of healthy activity. In the future, we will enhance the system to allow patients to share parts of their information with a selected group of family and friends, as well as to use the mobile phone to plan healthy activities, set context-sensitive reminders, and seek and receive social support.

Involving patients

No technology will be useful if it is difficult to use, is intrusive, it makes the user feel bad about herself, or does not respect her privacy. We, therefore, work closely with patients to design technologies that fit smoothly into their lives. If you are interested in taking part in the studies that will help us design and evaluate these tools, please select the Participate link at the top of the page to find out about the current opportunities to get involved.

The Change of Heart project is generously supported through the Microsoft’s HealthVault Be Well Fund Award.