Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects over 300 million people globally. While inhalers have been used as the primary treatment method for decades, new ‘smart inhalers’ are revolutionizing asthma care. These devices track medication use and send data to doctors, helping improve treatment outcomes.
What Are Smart Inhalers?
Smart inhalers contain digital sensors that can track if and when a person uses their inhaler. Some models also record how well the person is able to coordinate actuating the inhaler with inhalation. This objective usage data is transmitted via Bluetooth to a smartphone app. From there, it can be shared securely with a doctor or caregiver.
Smart Inhalers represent a significant upgrade over traditional mechanical inhalers that provided no information to doctors about how well a treatment plan was being followed. With insights from smart inhaler data, doctors can optimize prescriptions and address non-adherence issues before health deteriorates.
Types of Smart Inhalers
There are a few types of smart inhalers currently available or in development:
– Connected Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs): Popular brands like Propeller and Adherium have created sensors that can clip onto existing MDIs to provide usage tracking features.
– Integrated Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs): Devices like the Smart Turbuhaler fully integrate sensors and connectivity into a single inhaler unit. Brands include Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline.
– Nebulizer Solutions: Projects like the Bluetooth-enabled e-vent nebulizer are bringing smart functionality to nebulizer treatments for patients who can’t use handheld inhalers.
Advantages of Smart Inhaler Data
Access to objective usage data provides several advantages over traditional inhalers:
Early Identification of Issues: Digitally non-adherent periods can be spotted early, before health deteriorates. Doctors work proactively versus reactively.
Treatment Adjustments: Doctors can see if a medication or dosage needs adjusting based on real-world use versus estimated compliance.
Remote Monitoring: For high-risk patients like the elderly, doctors can remotely monitor inhaler use from anywhere via smartphone apps.
Education Opportunities: Low adherence periods reveal teachable moments where patients need more education on proper inhaler technique or medication importance.
Gamified Motivation: Some apps add game features and friendly competitions to motivate patients to use preventative medication as prescribed.
Improving Clinical Trial Outcomes: Pharmaceutical sponsors benefit from real-world effectiveness data to optimize new drug candidates before final approval.
Privacy and Data Management
Naturally, privacy and data security are top priorities for smart inhaler systems. Features include:
– Encrypted Transmission: Data sent between inhaler, smartphone, and cloud is encrypted during transmission.
– Anonymized Aggregation: Individual patient data may be anonymized and aggregated for clinical or research purposes while preserving privacy.
– Access Controls: Doctors can only access data from their own patients, not a centralized dataset, with logins and other controls.
– Data Deletion: Users have full control over and ability to delete their data if they stop using or consenting to a particular smart inhaler program.
Widening Adoption and Improving Lives
With benefits clearly demonstrated in clinical studies and pilot programs, smart inhaler adoption is expanding. As costs come down, more health systems and insurers are supporting initiatives that incorporate these devices into treatment plans. Ultimately, these connected devices promise to significantly improve adherence and outcomes for the hundreds of millions impacted by respiratory diseases worldwide. By delivering real-time insight into the real-world effectiveness of care, smart inhalers are poised to revolutionize chronic disease management.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it