New health app developed to help patients with rare lung disease

27 Jun 2024

From left: Mark Cooney, Martin Curley, Sean Gaine, Brian McCullagh, Lisa Wallace and Richard Wyatt Haines. Image: Conor Healy/Picture It Photography

The app has been specifically developed to assist people living with the rare condition pulmonary arterial hypertension.

A new health app has been developed for people living with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) to give access to localised information about treatment options and online support services to help manage the condition.

The app was announced today (27 June) as part of a partnership between Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine, the SFI Connect Centre for Future Networks and Communications, Maynooth University and Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.

PAH is a rare form of pulmonary hypertension, where the small arteries in your lungs become thick and narrow. This blocks the flow of blood through the lungs, leading to high blood pressure that forces your heart to work harder to pump blood through the narrowed arteries. 

With an annual incidence rate of 3.11 patients per million of the total population of Ireland, PAH is uncommon; however, those living with the condition can experience a low quality of life due to symptoms that include breathlessness, fatigue, fainting, swelling of the lower legs and hands, and chest pain. 

The app, which is based on award-winning technology that has been deployed in several UK hospitals already, will provide patients with credible, localised information, treatment pathways and online support services to help manage their health from their own homes. It will also enable medical teams to advise and educate people about the condition and encourage proactive health management. 

The initial roll-out of the app will benefit up to 250 people living with the rare disease who attend the Mater Hospital in Dublin for treatment. It is hoped that in the long term there will be an improvement in patient quality of life, a reduction in the need for hospital appointments, improved quality of care and will enhance the experience of healthcare professionals, for the benefit of the health provider and the patient. 

Developed by Health and Care Innovations, the ConnectPlus app was designed in collaboration with nurses, clinicians and PAH patients to ensure that it adequately reflects patient needs and can support local pathways of care. Eventually, it will be optimised to incorporate user feedback. 

Speaking about the partnership, Lisa Wallace, the business unit director and head of business transformation at Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine, acknowledged the dual benefits of supporting people living with PAH and reducing demand on the busy healthcare system.

“We are living in a world where the demand for healthcare is increasing, and we need to shift to innovative ways of working where more patients are at the centre of personalised care that is delivered closer to home,” Wallace said.

Prof Sean Gaine, a consultant respiratory physician at the Mater Hospital, is delighted to deliver an innovation that has the potential to assist patients as they navigate their conditions.

“Our teams are actively involved in shaping this innovative app to ensure the technology will best suit the needs of our patients and support our goal of empowering people living with PAH to play an active role in the management of their disease,” said Gaine. 

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Laura Varley is the Careers reporter for Silicon Republic