Smart inhalers

The NHS Long Term Plan promises the piloting of smart inhalers to help people monitor their asthma. So what are smart inhalers, and how could they help?

What is a smart inhaler and how does it work?

‘Smart’ inhalers are inhalers with extra digital features – they link to an app on your phone or tablet to help you and your doctor manage your asthma better.

At the moment there are lots of products in development, but you can’t get them from your GP just yet.

Some smart inhalers have sensors which can work out if you’re in a high pollution or high pollen area, some can send you handy reminders, and some can tell if you need to check your inhaler technique. They’re all designed to automatically track how often you’re using your inhaler, so you don’t need to keep your own records.

Some trials have suggested that if you use a smart inhaler it can make it easier to stick to taking your medicine. That means you get fewer symptoms.

How could using a smart inhaler help me?

Here are just some of the ways using a smart inhaler could make life a bit easier:

  • Getting an alert on your smartphone when you hit a high pollen or high pollution area – helping you decide whether to avoid it
  • Helping you prove to your doctor or asthma nurse that you’ve been taking your inhaler regularly, so they can better understand if your care needs changing
  • Letting you know if you’ve used your inhaler correctly, helping to make sure you get more of the medicine into your lungs, and reducing possible side effects.

Where can I get a smart inhaler?

If you’re in the UK, you can’t buy smart inhalers at the moment, because they’re still being tested in clinical trials.

Asthma UK has been lobbying for the last few years for wider testing of smart inhalers, and we’re pleased to see this now being recommended in the NHS Long Term Plan.

There’s more to do before smart inhalers are widely available, but they could be an exciting development. Our own research has shown that nearly 9 in 10 people with asthma would be interested in using a smart inhaler if they were available through the NHS. There’s also potential that the data collected through smart inhalers could be used to better detect the early warning signs of asthma attacks, and help reduce them for everybody.

Are smart inhalers anything to do with being on a SMART regime?

No. Maintenance and Reliever Therapy – sometimes known as SMART or MART – is a specific treatment regime where people are prescribed a combination inhaler.