External Affairs Manager
15 January 2021
Asthma UK have partnered with the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to £3m+ fund for asthma health technology.
As part of this, we’re keen to see the applications to develop the latest innovations that can vastly improve how asthma is diagnosed and managed. But innovators needn’t start from a blank canvas and there is much to be learnt from health technology developed for other conditions, which might be applied to asthma, taking into account the different behaviours and perspectives of people with asthma.
According to ORCHA, who conduct independent reviews and evaluations into health apps there are over 4 million health apps downloaded per day worldwide and over 327,000 different health apps available for download.
Health apps broadly cover three different categories:
- telemedicine where users can have consultations with a physician remotely
- health management where users can monitor a health condition with various level of integration with existing healthcare systems
- wellness apps where users can track general factors in health such as nutrition, exercise and sleep.
Wellness apps dominate the industry by far, currently only 40% of apps focus on patient care and of that, only 16% of apps focus on specific conditions.
The benefits of using digital health solutions in healthcare seem obvious; there can be more convenience and agency for users in monitoring their own health, healthcare costs to the NHS can be drastically cut down and there can be easier and more efficient patient data collection for healthcare professionals to make informed decisions about care.
The challenge lies in encouraging more user uptake of digital health apps. Currently 80% of health apps receive only 5000 downloads and when it comes to managing chronic conditions for example less than 2% of people diagnosed with COPD use an app to manage their condition.
The lack of uptake of condition-specific apps might be explained by a desire from people not to constantly their long-term condition. Insights from our work with Public Health England that found that many people with asthma do not want to routinely acknowledge their asthma and continually monitor it. There may, therefore, be significant potential in technology that helps people manage their asthma but isn't asthma specific and seamlessly incorporates into people’s everyday lives.
However, since the Covid-19 pandemic, with social distancing measures becoming mandatory, uptake of digital health services have skyrocketed in the UK. NHS Digital has reports a huge increase in registrations to use the NHS app by 111%, the number of repeat prescription requests made via the app also increased by 97% and the number users viewing their patient records by 62%.
We have rounded up some brilliant Digital Health platforms and apps to illustrate how technology can improve the efficiency and accessibility of patient care, and provide inspiration for the next wave of asthma health apps that can transform outcomes.
Pando is a clinical messaging app for healthcare workers. It was added to the NHS App library and is now free for all NHS staff to use. It is designed be used by anyone working in health and social care with a need to share sensitive information and images securely and quickly. It removed the need for complicated bleep and switchboard systems. NHSX reports that since the outbreak of Covid-19 the app has seen a 700% increase in engagement with over 45,000 users as NHS staff communicate across wards, as well as primary, community and secondary care teams.
This is just one example how an innovative digital health solution is helping improve patient care.
FreeStyle Libre is a flash glucose monitoring system that measures glucose levels continuously throughout the day. It measures the amount of glucose in the fluid under the skin, called interstitial fluid. It helps the diabetes care team determine if a user’s glucose levels are increasing or decreasing, how the levels are changing over time and what adjustments into the treatment plan if any are needed. A flash system is made up of a sensor, a reader and a connected app.
Current Health is a full-service remote healthcare platform that uses an AI-enabled wearable device to help healthcare professionals monitor patients either on the hospital ward or at home, with the additional possibility of being used to monitor participants in clinical trials. Sensors on the wearable device, can be integrated with other medical devices e.g. glucose monitors, blood pressure cuffs and weighing scales. The results are then transmitted in real time to the cloud-based platform where AI can identify if a patient is at risk and healthcare professionals can be alerted.
The platform also has healthcare professionals available 24/7 using telemedicine. The remote platform aims to have patients go home earlier from hospital and stay home; thereby improving outcomes and reducing the cost of care for the healthcare systems.