Study Finds Sensor-Based Inhalers Improve Asthma Control in Children

Aislinn Antrim, Associate Editor

Investigators found the greatest improvements among non-Hispanic Black participants, suggesting that the intervention could help engage diverse populations of pediatric asthma patients.

New research suggests that ‘smart’ asthma inhaler sensors may improve control of asthma in children as well as improving the quality of life for caregivers. According to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, this intervention should be considered to help engage diverse populations of pediatric asthma patients.

More than 25 million Americans are diagnosed with asthma and most are prescribed inhalers that are designed to prevent and treat asthma attacks. Most patients can achieve disease control with effective management and live symptom-free. However, patients with moderate-to-severe disease, asthma control may also require use of ‘controller’ medications as well as occasional use of ‘rescue’ medications.

Connected inhalers, or ‘smart’ inhalers, use Bluetooth sensors that attach to participants’ asthma inhalers to detect medication use, and they share data with physicians. According to the study results, the data could help improve treatment decisions, and these inhalers could also promote adherence to recommended controller medication use and proactively detect worsening of asthma symptoms.

“Emerging connected technologies can help improve patient health, with this randomized-controlled clinical trial showing that pediatric asthma patients with access to inhaler sensors report better asthma control and quality of life than patients who only received a standardized asthma education curriculum,” said study lead Ruchi Gupta, MD, in a statement.

The study included 252 children with moderate or persistent asthma who were recruited from 5 clinics. They were 24% non-Hispanic white, 23% non-Hispanic Black, and 40% Hispanic, while 60% were on public insurance. The study lasted 1 year and had assessments at enrollment, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months.

Study participants were evaluated based on an Asthma Control Test questionnaire, which measured their asthma symptom control on a scale from 0 (poor control) to 27 (well-controlled). According to the Lurie children’s hospital, average scores among those who received the intervention increased by 10.1% over the course of the study. The researchers noted the greatest improvements among non-Hispanic Black participants.

Caregivers were assessed with their own questionnaire, which measured how the sensor-based monitoring adherence affected their day-to-day involvement. They reported improved quality of life after the first month of the study due to easier asthma management, which was sustained through the year-long trial.

“This study is another clear example that digital health is here to stay, as it allows for us to stay connected to patients living with chronic disease, provide a level of automated watchfulness, and intercept disease in a timely measure,” said Deneen Vojta, MD, chief physician executive for Optum Labs, in a statement. “This is a terrific example of moving from the best care out there today to the best care possible.”

REFERENCE

“Smart” Asthma Inhaler Sensors Improve Pediatric Asthma Control [news release]. Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; February 17, 2021. Accessed February 18, 2021. https://www.luriechildrens.org/en/news-stories/smart-asthma-inhaler-sensors-improve-pediatric-asthma-control/

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