Greater use of technology in asthma will cut GP appointments and improve care

Investment in digital technologies will be a 'game changer' in asthma management, helping to support self-management and reducing pressure on GPs, Asthma UK has said.

In a report published today the charity said that technology delivered via smartphones, including ‘smart inhalers’, apps that help individuals avoid triggers and remote monitoring, would revoluntionise asthma care and ease pressure on the NHS.

The report, Connected asthma: how technology will transform care, said immediate action should be taken to ensure every person with asthma has an action plan available to them digitally. These action plans should eventually be incorporated into shared patient records.

Smart inhalers

Asthma UK also called on the NHS to establish a testing programme for smart inhalers, which have shown promise to improve treatment adherence.

Smart inhalers use a Bluetooth device or sensor that attaches to an inhaler and collects data on medication use. They monitor the daily inhaler use of a patient, usually via a linked health app on a smartphone, and send alert reminders to use the inhaler.

Asthma UK said the government should invest more money in research aimed at developing technology like this that facilitates the management and self-management of asthma.

Electronic surveillance of prescribing data should also be used to alert clinicians when patients are prescribed excessive quantities of short-acting reliever inhalers or too few preventer inhalers, the report said.

Asthma currently accounts for 2-3% of all primary care consultations at a cost of £52m a year. Some 5.4m people in the UK have asthma and every 10 seconds someone in the UK has an asthma attack.

Separate research by Asthma UK has shown that almost three-quarters of people with asthma in the UK would like access to a mobile health device that would help them monitor their asthma.

Game changer

Asthma UK chief executive Kay Boycott said: ‘Digital health tech is likely to be the game changer that transforms current asthma management and the patient-doctor relationship.

‘We need to see a shift towards supporting greater self-management of asthma and less reliance on overstretched clinical services. People with asthma still want the reassurance of a system backed by the NHS, but the majority would like much more management support via their mobile phone.

‘We’re particularly excited by the early promise shown abroad by smart inhalers linked via Bluetooth to a smartphone, tracking use in real-time and building a picture of overall medication use. Emerging data from the USA includes a clinical trial of smart inhalers which saw a 60% improvement in asthma control.

'Bearing in mind that 85% of asthma patients are being treated in primary care, this kind of technology could help ease pressure on the healthcare system by drastically reducing the number of routine GP appointments required by people with asthma through routine remote monitoring.’

Photo: iStock

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