Asthma UK pressing for digital health transformation
Asthma UK, mHealth
In its recent report, “Smart asthma: Real world implementation of connected devices in the UK to reduce asthma attacks”, Asthma UK continues its long-standing commitment to digital health in asthma. As a result, the report explores “opportunities and possible pitfalls as we digitise asthma” and builds on the patient group’s:
- 2015 collaboration on myaircoach, the European mHealth project into personalised asthma monitoring
- 2016 comprehensive report into how apps and other technologies can transform asthma care, `Connected Asthma’.
Asthma UK’s journey to `Smart asthma’
In recent years, Asthma UK through a series of research reports made clear its commitment. As a result of these reports follows the commitment to harnessing technology for asthma care:
“Without newly available technologies and the ubiquity of smartphones, significant change would likely be just a pipedream…Asthma UK is determined to play a pivotal role in speeding up the adoption of such technologies – and, conversely, slowing them down if there are dangers they bring new care challenges or will not deliver real benefits for the majority of people with asthma.”
– Kay Boycott, Chief Executive, Asthma UK, `Smart Asthma’, Feb 2017
In addition the organisation’s latest report focuses on the role of smart inhalers designed to collect and send data from sensors monitoring the individual’s medication use, whilst it argues for urgent action:
“Widespread use of connected technologies will happen very soon. We must have a clear plan to ensure they are safe, effective and good value for money for all.”
So what do asthma patients want from mHealth?
While patient demand for mHealth is a clear thread running through all its research, in 2015 as part of Asthma UK’ research for the European mhealth project, myaircoach, the organisation surveyed patients to find out how technology could help:
“Nearly three-quarters…wanted to see an mHealth device that would help them monitor their asthma.
Nearly half…would value a system which could be used as part of their asthma action plan…tell them if changes to asthma medication have improved their asthma and when to seek medical attention.”
– Asthma UK research on behalf of myAirCoach project.
How can technology transform asthma care?
Asthma UK’s `Connected Asthma’ 2016 report observed that:
“Asthma is an almost unique condition in that people are likely to always carry two devices with them – their inhaler and mobile phone – increasing opportunities to innovate. However, many of these innovations are happening in isolation and without sufficient regard for the end user experience.”
– Kay Boycott, Asthma UK, Connected Asthma
To sum up, the report explored how technology is currently used in asthma, and identified that: “the quality of health apps for asthma is highly variable.”
With this in mind the report identified a number of other challenges, including:
- “Uncertainty on regulation of health apps leading to risk-averse approaches
- Lack of certification/endorsement framework which would help ensure information security and technical resilience of asthma apps
- Asthma apps in UK do not yet link to Electronic Health Records.”
So looking ahead, Asthma UK highlighted a short-term priority for a:
“High quality mHealth solution…with user-centred design informed by patients and healthcare professionals, which brings together the action plan, adherence tech, patient and symptom information into one central point”.