An Australian smartphone app is helping heart attack survivors stay healthy by bringing vital rehabilitation to the home.

Helping heart attack survivors avoid a fatal relapse could be as simple as popping a smartphone in their hand.

A study has found that rehabilitation delivered via a CSIRO app is more effective than a conventional clinic-based regimen.

A group of 60 Brisbane heart attack survivors given the app were 30 per cent more likely to start rehab than an equivalent group who weren’t.

They were 40 per cent more likely to adhere to the program and nearly twice as likely to finish it, according to a study published in the journal Heart.

Rehab for survivors generally means several hours of group exercise and seminars at a clinic.

Many lose motivation or can’t find transport and stop attending.

“The smartphone app offers another choice,” said Dr Mohan Karunanithi from the CSIRO.

It gives patients guidance on what to eat, how to exercise, and when to take medication – along with the odd motivational text.

“By integrating rehab with a patient’s daily life, they are more likely to complete the program and make their new healthy lifestyle permanent,” Dr Karunanithi said.

Patients record their progress and health, which is then relayed to an online portal for doctors and nurses to monitor.

The app is especially promising for people who live a long way from clinics, said Rachelle Foreman, health director at The National Heart Foundation.

But she said uptake of rehab remains dire, with less than half of heart attack survivors referred to rehab programs.

“The system first needs to let patients know about the importance of such programs and then provide them with flexible options.”

The app will be rolled out to heart attack survivors at several Brisbane hospitals, including Ipswich and Metro North.

The CSIRO will try to adapt the platform for lung disease and diabetes rehab.