Asthmapolis has developed a mobile device that can be attached to inhalers. The data gathered can provide valuable information on the kind of environmental exposure that tends to bring on asthma attacks.
In the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), around 26 million people suffer from asthma. The annual cost of treating this condition is estimated at $50 billion for medical expenditure, plus a further $6 billion in additional indirect costs resulting from missed school and days off work. This considerable expense is to some degree due to the patients themselves, who do not follow their treatment procedures properly or are not in regular contact with their healthcare providers, who then lack feedback on how the treatment is going and under what conditions attacks continue to occur. It has been calculated that if patient treatment could be better monitored, 80% of all asthma-related hospitalisation could be avoided, and that the mortality rate from asthma could be reduced by 20%. The technology which Asthmapolis has developed has several objectives, one of them being to help healthcare workers to treat their patients more effectively as a result of monitoring their treatment on an ongoing basis and collecting precise data on the environmental conditions under which patients use their inhalers.
Enabling healthcare workers to treat their patients more effectively
Aside from enabling patients to manage their own treatment more efficiently, the Asthmapolis system is also proving very useful for medical staff. How it works is that a small sensor attached to the patient’s inhaler is linked to an iOS or Android mobile app and an online platform. Geolocation is integrated into the app, so medical practitioners have access to precise, detailed information on how their patients are using their inhalers. They can also monitor how the treatment is working. Doctors receive this information about their patients on an ongoing basis and can therefore work more closely with them. Moreover, the data collected can indicate those areas where asthma attacks most often occur, thus enabling health practitioners to warn their patients about any danger areas and send them notifications, suggestions and advice on the precautions they ought to be taking. Asthmapolis has also entered into a partnership with Qualcomm Life, so that those patients who do not own a smartphone can be alerted by standard phone call, SMS or email. A pilot study has shown that 60% of all patients who embarked on the project were not monitoring their own condition. After three months, 50% of these patients were able to track and manage their asthma condition proactively, while 70% of all participants in the study stepped up their overall self-monitoring activity.
Generating data to help research into asthma
This kind of tool also helps to develop new methods of researching into asthma. Researchers can now get hold of precise data, dated and geolocated for the places and environmental conditions which trigger attacks. This information could be invaluable in helping city health departments, hospitals, clinics and general practices and epidemiologists to focus their research on the places and times which represent the greatest risk to asthma sufferers and identify the environmental factors which influence air properties. To this end, Asthmapolis has, since setting up in 2010, built up a number of partnerships, especially with public-private ventures. The firm is working for example in collaboration with the University of Hawaii on a project to research into air quality and composition and their impact on asthma. It has also signed up to partnerships with health insurers such as the WellPoint health plan in Florida (‘Amerigroup Florida’) and medical centres, including New York’s Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. Asthmapolis is however not the only company that has launched itself into asthma prevention. The Geckocap startup helps young children to remember when they need to use their inhalers, and researchers at AT&T Labs are now working on a wireless sensor project designed to detect air zones where asthmathics are most likely to suffer attacks.