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JMIR Cardio. 2017 Jul-Dec;1(2):e7. doi: 10.2196/cardio.8543. Epub 2017 Dec 12.

The Atrial Fibrillation Health Literacy Information Technology System: Pilot Assessment.

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Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, United States.
Center for Behavioral Health Smart Technology, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, United States.
College of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, United States.
Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston University, Boston, MA, United States.



Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a highly prevalent heart rhythm condition that has significant associated morbidity and requires chronic treatment. Mobile health (mHealth) technologies have the potential to enhance multiple aspects of AF care, including education, monitoring of symptoms, and encouraging and tracking medication adherence. We have previously implemented and tested relational agents to improve outcomes in chronic disease and sought to develop a smartphone-based relational agent for improving patient-centered outcomes in AF.


The objective of this study was to pilot a smartphone-based relational agent as preparation for a randomized clinical trial, the Atrial Fibrillation Health Literacy Information Technology Trial (AF-LITT).


We developed the relational agent for use by a smartphone consistent with our prior approaches. We programmed the relational agent as a computer-animated agent to simulate a face-to-face conversation and to serve as a health counselor or coach specific to AF. Relational agent's dialogue content, informed by a review of literature, focused on patient-centered domains and qualitative interviews with patients with AF, encompassed AF education, common symptoms, adherence challenges, and patient activation. We established that the content was accessible to individuals with limited health or computer literacy. Relational agent content coordinated with use of the smartphone AliveCor Kardia heart rate and rhythm monitor. Participants (N=31) were recruited as a convenience cohort from ambulatory clinical sites and instructed to use the relational agent and Kardia for 30 days. We collected demographic, social, and clinical characteristics and conducted baseline and 30-day assessments of health-related quality of life (HRQoL) with the Atrial Fibrillation Effect on Quality of life (AFEQT) measure; self-reported medication adherence with the Morisky 8-item Medication Adherence Scale (MMAS-8); and patient activation with the Patient Activation Measure (PAM).


Participants (mean age 68 [SD 11]; 39% [12/31] women) used the relational agent for an average 17.8 (SD 10.0) days. The mean number of independent log-ins was 19.6 (SD 10.7), with a median of 20 times over 30 days. The mean number of Kardia uses was 26.5 (SD 5.9), and participants using Kardia were in AF for 14.3 (SD 11.0) days. AFEQT scores improved significantly from 64.5 (SD 22.9) at baseline to 76.3 (SD 19.4) units at 30 days (P<.01). We observed marginal but statistically significant improvement in self-reported medication adherence (baseline: 7.3 [SD 0.9], 30 days: 7.7 [SD 0.5]; P=.01). Assessments of acceptability identified that most of the participants found the relational agent useful, informative, and trustworthy.


We piloted a 30-day smartphone-based intervention that combined a relational agent with dedicated content for AF alongside Kardia heart rate and rhythm monitoring. Pilot participants had favorable improvements in HRQoL and self-reported medication adherence, as well as positive responses to the intervention. These data will guide a larger, enhanced randomized trial implementing the smartphone relational agent and the Kardia monitor system.


atrial fibrillation; health-related quality of life; mHealth; medication adherence

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