A study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet shows that a treatment-adjustment algorithm based on lung function and symptoms in a mobile phone is useful for managing uncontrolled asthma. For fuss-free measuring of lung function, the phone connects to a wireless spirometer, and the app can register respiratory symptoms and provide visual feedback on treatment. The study is published in the highly respected European Respiratory Journal.
Asthma is a widespread disease that affects around 10 percent of Sweden’s population. Approximately half the affect people have so-called uncontrol asthma, and frequently experience breathing difficulties or asthma attacks. Inadequate management and/or incorrect use of medicines are common causes of this.
Asthma sufferers’ health
“Previous research has shown that asthma sufferers’ health and quality of life improves with patient education that focuses on self-care, self-testing and clear management plans. Additionally, health and medical care costs fall if patient involvement and knowledge can be leveraged,” says Björn Nordlund, pediatric nurse and research group leader at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.
Consequently, along with his colleagues, Björn develop a digital, automate self-care system for asthma. Called AsthmaTuner, it enables the measurement of lung function via a wireless spirometer connect to a mobile telephone app. Symptoms are evaluate using questions link to an individual treatment plan. The system was approve for use in medical care in 2018. It is now marketed by MediTuner AB, a company partly own by Bjorn Nordlund.
“The system analyses lung function and symptoms in accordance with asthma care guidelines,” he explains. “It then gives feedback in the form of automated, doctor-prescribed, treatment recommendation. Users also receive a picture of the inhaler that is to be use and instructions on whether the medication is to be maintained, increase or decreased.”
Support for self-management
The study was carry out in primary care and at the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. Its purpose was to evaluate the digital tool’s impact on symptoms and whether users more readily remember to take their medicines. The study comprise 77 uncontrolled asthma sufferers aged six and up. Around half of these were children and adolescents. Study participants were randomly chose to use AsthmaTuner for at least eight weeks as a support for self-management; also to receive traditional asthma care with a printed, individual treatment plan for at least eight weeks.
“In part, the results were hard to interpret. However, we could see that asthma symptoms improved more with the digital tool than they did with traditional care. Adult patients who use the tool at least once a week also more often remember to take their medicines. Thus, we conclude that this tool can contribute to alleviating uncontrol asthma sufferers’ symptoms,” says Björn Nordlund.
As asthma requires long-term, regular management, the researchers regard the shortness of the study as a weakness. Hence the plans to continue the work. “We do not know if the effects last longer than eight weeks. Thus, we are starting a larger study this autumn. It will run for a longer period and be conduct in Norrtälje’s Tiohundra medical care district and pediatric medical care in Stockholm (the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital).”