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The future of asthma care is digital
Respiratory Care
Declaration of sponsorship Novartis Pharma AG

The future of asthma care is digital

Declaration of sponsorship Novartis Pharma AG
Read time: 10 mins
Last updated:26th Jan 2021
Published:26th Jan 2021


Asthma treatment is complex with a heavy reliance on patient self-management, adherence to a prescribed action plan, active avoidance of triggers, and correct inhaler use.1-3 Digital technology is rapidly transforming respiratory care, with the advent of electronic monitoring devices, mHealth apps, wearable devices, and the increasing use of telehealth designed to empower patients and overcome existing barriers to care.4,5

There is little doubt that digital health solutions will continue to shape the future of respiratory care,6 driving personalised therapeutic approaches and playing a vital role in supporting clinician decision making!


Introducing big data and artificial intelligence

‘Big data’ together with artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning algorithms, are poised to revolutionise both the diagnosis and management of asthma through the use of predictive analytics.7 By automating knowledge discovery from large, complex data sets (including electronic health records, physiologic data captured via remote telemonitoring and environmental information), machine learning algorithms can collect, interpret, and find trends and patterns in disparate data.7


How will artificial intelligence be used in respiratory care?

AI can be integrated in software or any number of devices and will play a role across the full spectrum of care. Potential applications include:

  • At diagnosis, where automated interpretation of lung function tests and cough analysis using AI software have been shown to diagnose asthma to a high degree of accuracy (correct diagnosis in 82–97% of cases)8,9
  • In differential diagnosis to distinguish between asthma and COPD. The Asthma/COPD Differentiation Classification (AC/DC) tool is currently under development, and is able to use machine learning algorithms and over 411, 000 electronic health records to aid the physician in differentiating asthma from COPD with a high level of accuracy10
  • For the analysis of breath sounds from electronic stethoscopes, smart speakers, or smartphones, to detect wheezes and crackles, or for the analysis of CT scans6,11,12
  • To predict an individual’s future risk of exacerbations13 or risk of hospital attendance (admission or ED visit) over the coming year7,14,15
  • To inform treatment decisions by linking genetic traits to phenotypes that can predict response, or non-response, to treatment


What else does the future hold?

For day-to-day asthma management, we can expect future generations of smart inhalers to warn users of potential environmental triggers or accurately predict an upcoming exacerbation, or even trigger personalised treatment pathways based on weather conditions.6,7,16

And wearables, from stickers worn on the abdomen with sensors to monitor breathing patterns, to clothing sensors, smart watches, bracelets, rings and necklaces will enable patients to monitor and manage their condition in real-time and provide clinicians with vital medical data to support clinical decision making.6,16

Future versions of the technology described above will likely focus on a stronger personalisation of these digital products and services, perhaps utilising the ever-evolving advances in AI and machine learning. It is now easy to imagine a near and exciting future in respiratory care, where patients and healthcare providers are able to rely on advanced digital health solutions to inform clinical decisions and provide an optimal, personalised approach to therapy.


Big data

Definition: large data sets pooled from many sources
Artificial intelligence
Definition: computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence
Machine learning algorithms
Definition: computer algorithms that improve automatically through experience


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