Remembering to take medications every day can be difficult for many people. For asthma patients, forgetting to take daily controller inhalers can lead to more asthma exacerbations. New technology, however, may help asthmatics remember their medications and keep asthma under better control.
On June 3rd, 2014, a New Zealand company, Nexus6, announced it received marketing clearance for SmartTouch, an inhaler monitoring device. In the recent December issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology a study was published titled Inhaler reminders improve adherence with controller treatment in primary care patients with asthma by Foster et al. It used the SmartTouch device to measure asthma medication adherence. The device, which can connect to the internet via smart phones and other devices, records doses and provides reminders for missed doses. At six months, adherence in the reminder group was double (60%) that of the non-reminder group (29%) whose adherence data was collected covertly. The reminder group also had a statistically significant reduction in severe exacerbations (11% versus 28%) compared to the non-reminder group. Such data will help health care providers distinguish patients that are refractory to treatment versus treatment failures due to non-compliance. A similar device appears on their website for nasal sprays.
Further adherence data in children was recently published January 20, 2015 online in the journal Lancet titled The effect of an electronic monitoring device with audiovisual reminder function on adherence to inhaled corticosteroids and school attendance in children with asthma: a randomised controlled trial. The group with the audio visual reminder function turned on had an 84% adherence rate compared to 30% in the control group.
Per the company website, the SmartinhalerAppTM is available on iPad, iPhone and Android devices although it was not found in the iTunes App Store as of March 2. It appears the SmartTouch device is preparing for U.S. markets given the product section of the company website has a color matching device for most American branded inhaler products available.
The availability of a “Smart Inhaler” should benefit both patients and physicians. We may eventually see devices that can alert pharmacies when your inhaler is running low. The physician can be alerted if rescue inhaler usage has exceeded the recommended amount. Can’t recall if you took your scheduled controller last night? Check the log. No more over or under reporting of medication use based on what a patient thinks the physician wants to hear. Patient reminders and accurate adherence records will help improve asthma control as we continue to become further connected electronically.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to create a doctor-patient relationship with any reader. If you need personalized medical advice, contact your primary care physician or other physician in your community.