A study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet shows that a treatment adjustment algorithm based on lung function and symptoms in a mobile phone can be an efficient tool in 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 per cent of Sweden’s population. Approximately half the affect people have so-called uncontrolled 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 show 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,” states Björn Nordlund, paediatric nurse and research group leader at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.
Consequently, along with his colleagues, Björn Nordlund develop a digital, automated, self-care system for asthma. Called AsthmaTuner, it enables the measuring 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 market by MediTuner AB, a company partly own by Björn 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 decrease.” The now publish study was carried out in primary care and at the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden.
Digital tool’s impact
Its purpose was to evaluate the digital tool’s impact on symptoms and whether users more readily remember to take their medicines. The study comprised 77 uncontrolled asthma sufferers aged 6 upwards. Around half of these were children and adolescents. Study participants were randomly chosen to use AsthmaTuner for at least eight weeks as a support for self-management; and, also for at least eight weeks, receive traditional asthma care with a printed, individual, treatment plan.
“In parts, the results were hard to interpret. However, they could see that asthma symptoms improve 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.
AsthmaTuner was develop in collaboration with Region Stockholm and KI Innovations AB. Clinical testing was administer by Karolinska Trial Alliance. The present study was finance by funding from Uppsala Bio, Region Stockholm’s innovation fund, Capio’s research fund, Vinnova and MediTuner AB. Henrik Ljungberg was the study’s first author. He, like Björn Nordlund, is a co-founder of MediTuner AB, which owns AsthmaTuner.