As technology develops we are beginning to modernise how we approach long-term conditions. Opportunities to harness these innovations are now starting to emerge within the NHS aimed at developing improved ways of managing and self-managing a condition. For asthma, technology has the potential to develop new ways to tackle persistent challenges around care.
In our report, we highlight how asthma is ideally placed to be transformed by technology. Asthma has clearly and identified issues in the quality of care as shown in the National Review of Asthma Deaths, and has been identified as having one of the strongest evidence bases for self-management compared to other conditions.
Technology has the potential to improve the care delivered by healthcare professionals, and also help to activate self-management at scale to help the 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK.
mHealth technology linked to smartphones in particular provides an opportunity to support people with some of the challenges of self-managing their asthma – to track inhaler use, avoid triggers and recognise worsening symptoms.
Our report explains where several key innovations could make the biggest impact for people with asthma.
- Smart inhalers are designed to link to a smartphone and detect when an inhaler is used – tracking use in real-time and building a picture of overall medication use for a person with asthma. We believe that in the future smart inhalers could help more people to take their medications properly.
- Health apps on smart devices could also help people with asthma receive personalised information to help self-manage their asthma. These need to be better developed to suit user needs, but these could give people information on triggers such as air pollution, in addition to storing a person’s asthma action plan.
- Remote monitoring could help healthcare professionals to better support people with asthma, with technology potentially able in the future to detect when a person’s asthma is worsening and respond appropriately to prevent an attack. We are supporting research aimed at creating a personalised asthma monitoring system.
- Innovative systems and data could help ensure that those most at risk of an asthma attack are identified and their asthma is managed effectively as a result. This includes linking systems to ensure GPs are informed when people have an emergency admission due to their asthma.
Technology offers much promise but we are still at the early stages. More needs to be done to help ensure that people with asthma in the UK are able to benefit from a new connected way managing asthma.
- Existing technology needs to be introduced today to improve asthma care. Only one GP software provider currently offers a digital personal asthma action plan – we want all providers to make this available to people with asthma. Improved systems need to also be introduced to help reduce poor quality asthma care.
- New technologies need to be designed with the asthma user in mind. Asthma needs more research, and we want to see greater investment to develop innovative technology aimed at helping people self-manage their asthma.
- The NHS needs to open the pathway to future asthma technology. There needs to be a suitable process to help ensure that innovations are rapidly introduced in a safe way. As a first step, we want to see the NHS introduce a testing programme for smart inhalers in the UK so that people with asthma can begin to benefit from the exciting innovations being developed.
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