Embedding IT-enabled decision support tools to improve quality of care for patients hospitalized with heart failure


Principal Investigator and Primary Supervisor: Professor Walter Abhayaratna, http://medicalschool.anu.edu.au/people/walter-abha...

Heart failure is a progressive and debilitating condition, with a prognosis that is worse than the majority of solid organ cancers. Despite the availability of effective medical therapy that increases survival and improves quality of life, less than half of patients with heart failure are taking appropriate treatment. This is in part due to factors related to patients, health providers and the healthcare system.

IT-enabled decision support tools can facilitate the implementation of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. An interface primarily designed to improve patient care and increase provider knowledge has the additional benefit of creating a high-quality dataset that is necessary for continuous improvement of healthcare in patients treated in a complex dynamic system, in which changes to care processes may have unintended consequences.

This project is a collaboration between multidisciplinary researchers and patients with heart failure admitted to Canberra Hospital. Successful computer science students will work closely with hospital-based clinicians to design a user interface that is embedded in clinical service delivery and incorporates the most up-to-date heart failure practice guidelines.


Heart failure practice guidelines have been published and are updated on a regular basis (ESC guidelines, 2016), with the National guidelines under revision. The principles of quality improvement design and analysis (Provost, 2011) are well established.

The team's first goal will be to design and build a cloud-based interface that incorporates hospital administrative data, clinical electronic records and practice guidelines that are used by clinicians via desktop or mobile devices to manage patients with heart failure. The second goal will be to incorporate interactive visual analytics with which healthcare improvement cycles can be designed and conducted. The overall goal of the project will be to promote efficiency, safety and effectiveness by improving the design of technologies, processes and work systems (Russ, 2013).


Students will need to have strong programming skills, an interest in (and preferably some experience with) medical applications, and a strong ability to work in teams, including good communication skills. Data analysis and experimental design skills are also required. A track record of app development and/or technical skills in working with integrated devices would be an advantage. There is the potential for commercial applications arising from this project, so IP agreements will be essential.

Background Literature

2016 ESC Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic heart failure. Eur Heart J 2016;37:2129–2200.

Provost LP. Analytical studies: a framework for quality improvement design and analysis. BMJ Quality & Safety 2011;20:i92-i96.

Russ A, Fairbanks RJ, Karsh B-T, Militello LG, Saleem JJ, Wears Rl. The science of human factors: separating fact from fiction. BMJ Qual Saf 2013;0:1–20.


Students will develop an understanding of the applications of user interface support tools in improving the quality of care in patients with chronic and debilitating medical conditions such as heart failure. There is also potential for inclusion on published papers and attendance at conferences if the student's contribution is sufficient. Further involvement in our ongoing health service research projects is also a possibility.


health informatics, machine learning applications, decision support systems, user interface design, heart failure, human factors science, medical research, continuous quality improvement

Updated:  10 August 2021/Responsible Officer:  Dean, CECS/Page Contact:  CECS Marketing