In a recent study, Australian digital health company Adherium’s smart inhaler was shown to reduce hospitalizations and acute asthma exacerbations in kids with poorly controlled asthma.

Smart inhalers have quickly become one of the most promising digital health tools on the market. We’ve covered two of the bigger players – Adherium and Propeller Health – fairly extensively. One reason for the enthusiasm is the interesting alignment of incentives for patients, insurers, drug makers, and hospital systems. More importantly, though, there’s actually some early data on these devices showing benefits in outcomes we actually care about.

In this study, about 80 children with poorly controlled asthma were randomized to usual care vs. electronic monitoring with Adherium’s smart inhaler attachment. Kids in both groups had the SmartInhaler attachment on their inhalers. For the kids in the intervention group, medication use was monitored and kids received alerts if they missed a dose. Adherence data was also reviewed during clinic visits. For kids in the control group, that data was collected but not shared with either the caregivers or clinicians.

The primary outcome was disease control based on a validated questionnaire, the ACQ, and after 12 months there was no difference. Interestingly though the pre-specified secondary outcomes tell a different story. Adherence rates were 70% in the intervention group vs. 49% in the control group. In addition, kids in the intervention group had fewer hospitalizations (0.025 vs. 0.129 per 100 child days, p<0.001) and fewer courses of steroids (0.411 vs. 0.676 per 100 child days, p=0.008).

That the benefits were in secondary outcomes should give us some pause but can’t be disregarded. Put another way, among 1000 children with poorly controlled asthma using the SmartInhaler for 100 days, roughly 10 hospitalizations may be prevented. That’s a really meaningful benefit for a fairly low cost digital health intervention and definitely worth chasing further in larger studies.

Source: Press Release, PubMed