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As Angus has outlined, several aspects of this may become easier when the ceilometer integration is completed. You can track this work via this BP:

https://blueprints.launchpad.net/heat/+spec/watch-ceilometer

Part of this work will be to implement a "webhook" style interface to allow notifications to heat on alarm state changes.

It seems like nova notifications should be something we can receive via the same/similar mechanism, or perhaps ceilometer will allow us to set alarms on specific nova notifications directly.

The other aspect of nova notifications which we would like to investigate is using notifications for state-changes (e.g BUILD to ACTIVE), to avoid the polling of nova instance state that we currently do:

https://github.com/openstack/heat/blob/master/heat/engine/resources/instance.py#L371

Please do come and get involved with the community so we can more fully understand your use-case! :)