GPS enabled albuterol inhaler helps patients localize their asthma triggers

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Are there patterns to the usage of albuterol inhalers that would help patients identify their triggers ? It is reasonable to expect that an individual over time would become familiar with the times of day or locations that are more likely to trigger their asthma. But, what if a single neighborhood or a particular event caused a widespread flare up of asthma – how do we track what populations of patients are experiencing in real time ?

Asthmapolis is a company and research project that aims to answer that question for asthma using a compact wireless device that records time and location on patients’ use of their albuterol inhalers. The service is voluntary, anonymized and opt-in. In a newspaper article, the study leader David Van Sickle, PhD remarked that in a pilot study [Columbia Daily Tribune]

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…participants were surprised by the number of times they used their inhalers or where they were when they started to feel short of breath. …and surprised to see they had been relying on their inhalers more often than they thought.

In addition to serving as a mobile patient diary, the technology behind Asthmapolis is being used a in a large scale study of rural asthma. Mobile health technologies seem well suited for chronic diseases where the the long term cycles of diseases may be obscured to both the patient and the physician. It would seem arming patients with  tools to collect real-time data, would be a superior strategy to relying on their recall or occasional physician office visits to collect that information.

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