Asthma Digital Health, Where Next?

Asthma digital health, what is next?

As a huge therapy area, asthma has attracted a large number of poor quality `me too’ apps and poorly implemented digital health activities. But this year there could be a number of breakthroughs in asthma digital health and mHealth, including:

  • a 12-week asthma support programme offered by patient group Asthma UK involving a helpline, app, texts, emails and coaching
  • the climax of the European myAirCoach project, to support asthma patients to control their disease through mHealth.
What are the current challenges for asthma apps?

Following on, as part of a recent EUROFEA event, Dr Dermot Ryan, a GP in the UK and President of the Respiratory Effectiveness Group, identified three key reasons why he feels asthma apps “haven’t shown durability”.

Firstly, recommendation 1: Involve patients

“Most apps that have been launched haven’t incorporated patients in designing the apps. So they’ve been designed by people who love the technology, or they’ve been designed by clinicians who think they know what patients want.”

Secondly, recommendation 2: Personalise to target individual needs

“Patients need to be able to choose within an app what they want to take on board and what they don’t. So everybody with asthma is different. They’ve all got their specific needs as well as generic needs. So the app should demonstrate some adaptability for the patient to use it as they want.”

Lastly, recommendation 3: Develop new ways to measure app effectiveness

“We talk about medication adherence, but nobody’s properly studied app adherence. What are the features that get a patient to start using an app and to continue using an app?”.

Dr Dermot Ryan, GP, President Respiratory Effectiveness Group

An integrated approach led by a patient group

Looking forward, following a successful pilot, UK-based patient group Asthma UK is currently recruiting patients to an integrated support programme. Funded by the UK Department of Health and National Health Service, Asthma UK offers a 12-week support programme.

This includes:

  • Personalised emails and texts with top tips promoting greater asthma confidence
  • Access to dedicated web pages with activities to help individuals to develop their own ability to manage their asthma using proven behaviour change techniques
  • Support from a dedicated team of Programme Advisors through two calls or weekly WhatsApp, motivating participants to stay well with their asthma.

The programme goes live in the Spring, and we will be reporting on progress.

Asthma digital health supported by patient groups

In conclusion, many patient groups across Europe have supported the European Union-funded myAirCoach mHealth project.  The project was launched just over three years ago to develop an asthma monitoring system using personalised mHealth.

The research centres around patient advisory groups, and input from patient groups such as Asthma UK and EFA (European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations).

The research includes:

  • Using sensors in the `smart’ inhaler to record how well people take their medication, and identify small changes in symptom control that the patient may not perceive
  • Identifying best ways to combine `smart’ inhalers with self-management apps
  • Enabling patients to easily report and track how triggers and environmental factors affect their asthma.

The practical outcomes and learning from this 3-year research programme are anticipated during 2018.


See the EUFOREA interview with Dermot Ryan on current challenges with asthma apps…

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Find out about the new 12-week support programme from Asthma UK…

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Find out about the forthcoming myAirCoach asthma ehealth programme produced with patient groups…

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