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Declaration of sponsorship Novartis Pharma AG

How can digital health solutions improve respiratory care?

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


Over recent years, advances in digital technology, both in terms of capability and availability, have led to the emergence of numerous novel digital health solutions in respiratory care. Whilst the evidence for the effectiveness of such solutions may sometimes be lacking, and further evidence-based research is certainly required, exciting, new digital solutions have the potential to dramatically change the respiratory care landscape for the better.


How can novel digital health solutions improve diagnosis?

  • Telehealth systems that use portable spirometry and mHealth apps to provide healthcare providers (HCPs) with relevant data have the potential to aid in remote diagnosis of asthma and COPD1
  • Portable spirometry data, together with details of patient history, may improve the accuracy of diagnosis, support tailored patient education and improve self-management2


How can novel digital health solutions improve disease control?

  • Telehealth techniques, such as individually tailored text messaging, have been shown to improve asthma disease control in randomised controlled trial settings3
  • Inhaler monitoring devices may improve patient asthma control and reduce rescue medication use4
  • Remote monitoring of patients through telehealth techniques increases the amount of data available to HCPs,5 which could aid in the identification and treatment of patients whose disease is uncontrolled


How can novel digital health solutions improve adherence?

  • Remote contact with HCPs through Telehealth (particularly using mHealth apps and video-based appointments) could improve patient disease awareness and adherence6,7
  • Inhaler monitoring devices have improved adherence and inhaler technique in some randomised controlled trials4,8


How can novel digital health solutions predict and prevent exacerbations?

  • Some mHealth apps can display environmental information. Used with patient spirometry data, this information has the potential to predict or prevent an asthma trigger10
  • Telehealth systems assessed in randomised controlled trials, such as monitoring devices and mHealth applications, have been associated with lower rates of asthma-related hospitalisations and emergency department visits due to exacerbations9



Telehealth describes technology that allows HCPs to communicate with patients at a distance.11 It is a broad term, which includes the use of phone calls, video calls, text messages and smartphone/tablet applications.

Potential advantages over conventional appointments:

  • Telehealth may improve convenience and reduce costs for patients5
  • Telehealth could also increase efficiency for HCPs, by improving clinic congestion and reducing unneeded referrals5
  • Remote monitoring of patients through telehealth techniques increases the amount of data available to HCPs5
  • Telehealth techniques used in randomised controlled trials, often in conjunction with existing healthcare systems, have been shown to increase patient awareness and may encourage self-management of their disease11

Portable spirometry

Digital, portable spirometry devices allow patients to test and monitor their spirometry at home. They are low cost, easy to use and produce results similar to that of conventional spirometry.

Some handheld spirometers, such as the AirNext, are controlled via a smartphone app, which allows the patient to make sure their lung function does not deteriorate. The results can easily be shared with a patient’s HCP, allowing the HCP to make informed decisions about a patient’s treatment.12

Mobile Health (mHealth) applications

The term mHealth refers to mobile health applications, which can be downloaded to smartphones, tablets or similar devices, that aim to improve patients’ health management. In respiratory care, mHealth applications can provide patients with further education about their disease, alert patients to changes in their environment or disease management, and collect and track relevant data that can easily be shared with HCPs.10,13,14 Early studies suggest that patients with asthma using mHealth apps had better asthma control and treatment adherence, reduced rates of exacerbation and hospital admissions, and improved clinical outcomes and quality of life, compared with conventional interventions.10,15,16

Inhaler monitoring devices

Inhaler monitoring devices can be used for both controller and reliever inhalers; they are either built into the inhaler or attached to the device separately. Depending on the model, they can track when and where an inhaler has been used, confirm if the complete dose has been inhaled and even provide reminders if a dose has been missed. They are designed to improve inhaler technique, increase adherence and optimize compliance.7,11

  • Capture real data such as symptoms to help HCPs make informed decisions about a patient’s treatment
  • Confirm a drug has been inhaled
  • Potentially increase patient motivation and involvement in their own disease management.


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  2. Maria Matricardi P, Dramburg S, Alvarez-Perea A, et al. The role of mobile health technologies in allergy care: An EAACI position paper. Allergy. 2019;doi: 10.1111/all.13953. [Epub ahead of print].
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  7. Lin NY, Ramsey RR, Miller JL, et al. Telehealth delivery of adherence and medication management system improves outcomes in innerÔÇÉcity children with asthma. Pediatr Pulmonol 2020;55:858–65
  8. Chan AH, Stewart AW, Harrison J, et al. The effect of an electronic monitoring device with audiovisual reminder function on adherence to inhaled corticosteroids and school attendance in children with asthma: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet Respir Med 2015;3:210–9
  9. McLean S, Nurmatov U, Liu JL, et al. Telehealthcare for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011;7:CD007718.
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