CV-PREVITAL, the first Italian digital health application for cardiovascular prevention
The project “CV-PREVITAL, Strategies for primary cardiovascular prevention in the Italian population”, was launched in pursuit of a public health goal of extraordinary importance: to develop and scientifically validate, for the first time in Italy, a primary cardiovascular prevention model based on the use of digital technologies.
Promoted and funded with €10 million by the Ministry of Health and highlighted for its relevance within the 2020-2022 National Healthcare Research Programme (PNRS), the project is part of digital health (e-Health), already the third-largest industry in the European health sector, after pharmaceuticals and medical device manufacturing.
In the implementation of CV-PREVITAL, in addition to the lead institute Centro Cardiologico Monzino IRCCS (Istituti di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico), another 14 IRCCS Institutes belonging to the Cardiology Network, about 200 general practitioners associated with the Consorzio Sanità (CoS) and 200 pharmacies associated with the territorial branches of Federfarma Lombardia also participated.
The role of YouCo and the mobile health application
YouCo, a Mobility Solution Provider expert in innovative digital projects and a European award-winning company, was assigned the task of developing the Mobile Health (m-Health) application CV-PREVITAL, a key tool of the entire project.
In the first phase of the project, the application will accompany 80,000 subjects in primary care for a duration of one year, providing them with advice and guidance on cardiovascular risk factors, as well as acting as a diary and reminder tool for users.
The data collected will allow researchers to verify whether and how the risk factors of the study participants have changed and to implement personalised educational programmes aimed at modifying “non-virtuous” lifestyles to increase the years of “healthy life”.
The added value offered by YouCo, with a consolidated experience in digital transformation in the business and PA field, was achieved in the following areas in particular:
- Design Thinking, a design methodology that ensures the best combination of the skills involved and the full usability of the application;
- Content creation, with an emotional design-oriented approach;
- Gamification, to maximise the involvement of study participants and incentivise “virtuous” behaviour;
- Development and System Integration, to develop an APP with advanced features which is able to communicate with all the technological platforms involved in the project;
- Data Security and Privacy, for the collection and management of data in full compliance with the security requirements of current data protection legislation (Reg. EU 679/2016).
Design Thinking, UX/UI
Design Thinking is the creative design method created and refined by YouCo to offer companies and institutions solutions that truly meet the needs of their users.
And in the case of the CV-PREVITAL project, the challenge was very complex.
- We needed to establish a perfect synergy with the many specialists involved to transform cutting-edge medical skills into effective content which is easily accessible through a smartphone application.
- We designed an application that allowed for monitoring remote management of and education in conventional and emerging cardiovascular risk factors, such as a person’s psycho-behavioural characteristics.
The Design Thinking methodology led to the design of an application offering all the required content and functionality, with a user interface (UI) and user experience (UX user-friendly, intuitive even for users unfamiliar with using apps.
Starting from the educational material provided by specialists in a variety of disciplines, YouCo produced all content for users, adopting an emotional design approach.
For the creation of articles, graphics, animations, video clips and audio content, light formats were adopted, and a friendly tone of voice was implemented.
In this way, while preserving the scientific depth of the contents, the inevitable anxiety component of the topics covered is mitigated, and the messages are easier to “consume”.
As CV-PREVITAL is a prevention app, the objective is to encourage the subjects involved in the study to use it correctly, i.e. regularly and by performing the required tasks.
This is why the application was developed by introducing a gamification mechanism.
To encourage consistency in the use and execution of the tasks provided, each participant is assigned an avatar to take care of, with the aim of promoting an emotional-affective response.
By performing the tasks proposed by the app, the subject implements prevention behaviours useful for his/her health which, with a point mechanism assigned by the APP, are reflected in the healthy growth of the avatar.
Thanks to this gaming paradigm, participants will be involved in a dynamic of healthy competition (there are no penalties), and they will begin to feel part of a community that shares the common commitment to prevention for the improvement of their health.
Application development and system integration
In addition to its development based on a multiplatform programming language that allows its use on all smartphones on the market today (iOS, Android, Huawei), the CV-PREVITAL application created by YouCo offers users advanced journal and reminder functions.
The APP enables the recording of several variables, such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, sleep quality and duration, and physical activity. On the basis of these inputs, through predefined algorithms, it sends multimedia educational messages to the user with the aim of incentivising good behaviour and, conversely, discouraging bad lifestyles.
In addition, the CV-PREVITAL application communicates with an articulated system of platforms to optimally monitor and manage the entire prevention process:
- Cardiology Network data platformcreated in collaboration with the Consorzio di Bioingegneria e Informatica Medica (CBIM) where all study data will be recorded;
- Data platform of the Health Consortium (CoS), a consortium of general practitioners active throughout the country;
- GARR cloud resources, for the storage of data collected through the APP and GARR TV services, for the storage of content generated and/or necessary for the operation of the APP itself.
Focus on data, privacy and security
Whether it is really possible to improve prevention with a smartphone APP will emerge from the large amount of data that the CV-PREVITAL project will collect over the course of the year.
It goes without saying that attention to the security of the data collected and, given its nature, the protection of the privacy of the participants, represents a central theme in the development of the project and the CV-PREVITAL APP.
In addition to developing the application in accordance with the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) methodology, YouCo also set up an app wrapping strategy, an additional protection of the application through a dedicated security component to counter possible malicious data extraction from end-users’ devices.
Expertise and planning
Realised in close cooperation with the CV-PREVITAL representatives, the project saw the web agency YouCo involved in the creation of the corporate image and the App, developed under the banner of an emotional design approach and based on engaging and gaming tools.
- Design thinking
- UX design
- UI design
- Software development
“People need to be given not only the tools, but also the motivation to continuously apply themselves to the difficult task of prevention. Digital medicine can be a very effective tool to help doctors and patients communicate better, to give information to citizens before they become patients, i.e. for prevention. CV-PREVITAL has this aim: to create and make tools and mechanisms available to those committed to this pathway that will enable them to be supported, that will stimulate them, that will encourage them to actively participate in the battle that is for their own future health. At the heart of the project is an APP, specially developed by the specialised company YouCo”
Prof. Gianfranco Parati
Scientific Director IRCCS Auxologico, principal investigator of the study together with Prof Giulio Pompilio