As treatments for asthma evolve, it is important for healthcare companies to understand how perceptions and experiences continue to change and what strategies and technologies they might be able to implement to better address patient needs.
Respondents from Asthma In America 2020, Health Union’s syndicated survey of 1,025 people living with the condition, reported a range of medication regimens that, unfortunately, fell short. As a result, five in 10 respondents reported struggling with controlling their asthma triggers, and nearly three-fourths said they feel their asthma isn’t controlled. Further analysis of these findings shows that technology could have an expanded role in continuing to improve the patient journey.
Medical Devices of the Future
There is a growing understanding that new technological developments, like digital inhalers and apps to track symptoms, could increase adherence to treatments and improve outcomes. According to a 2018 National Institutes of Health study on digital technologies and adherence in respiratory diseases, the algorithmic analysis of large amounts of data, from health status to treatment use, alongside environmental data, could allow for interventions that establish correct and consistent inhaler use. The study outlines how some approaches to monitoring and improving adherence, such as electronic inhalers, text messages, reminders, and self-management tools that include internet applications, have been used so far.
Product innovations that support adherence include nebulizers that provide date and time-stamped adherence data and digital inhalers, as well as inhaler add-ons. These technologies measure the inhaler technique, as well as the quality of inhalation, which can help with adherence, specifically inhaling the full dose of medication. Additionally, these digital devices can wirelessly send data to a mobile health platform, which can be compared to the patient’s electronic medical records.
These devices are evolving to remotely monitor peak flow, physical activity, and ambient pollution, providing users and health care professionals with holistic health data. Additionally, biosensors that can continuously monitor respiratory and cardiac parameters allow for a range of options that can support proper medical adherence. Bringing these technologies into the mainstream may provide a lifeline for individuals with poorly controlled asthma.
Early Medical Technology Adopters
Regimens for asthma can be complicated, involving numerous medications, from emergency inhalers to corticosteroids, and devices, from spacers to nebulizers. Among Asthma in America 2020 survey respondents, 95% use a rescue inhaler, 87% use a maintenance inhaler, and half currently use a nebulizer to treat their flare-ups; additionally, 14% use a biologic. With a possible use of combination therapy, having an app that can remind people to take their medications, what medications to take, and what plans to follow based on lung function could be beneficial.
Survey findings suggest there’s already a number of early adopters using technology to manage their asthma symptoms. Nearly one in five respondents said they currently use mobile apps to track asthma triggers; about one in 10 use apps for tracking symptoms and reminding when to take and refill medications. These apps could be particularly useful to the nearly one-third of respondents who said they forgot to take their medication on schedule within the past month. Furthermore, with half being interested in using a digital inhaler, it’s clear that smart inhalers are of interest to the asthma community.