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New asthma app to help young people manage condition

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A new smartphone application, or “app”, is being developed to give children and young people with asthma in London greater control over their treatment.

Those behind the app, which is about to enter user testing, said it would act as a “health passport” and allow clinicians to put asthma action plans directly onto a young person’s smartphone.

“The app allows clinicians and young people to save and access their asthma plan on their smartphones”

Tracy Parr

It will also integrate daily pollen counts, localised air pollution readings, and a weather tracker to enable patients to identify external factors that may contribute to their own ill health.

It is designed to create a personal health record for young people, enabling the patient to track their own symptoms, keep track of peak flow, hospital visits, and to see if their asthma is getting worse and know when to seek help.  

The app was developed by the Healthy London Partnership, a coalition of NHS and other bodies in the capital aimed at improving health outcomes, and Tiny Medical Apps – a company jointly formed in early 2016 by Dr Greg Burch, an accident and emergency doctor.

Dr Burch noted that the UK has some of the worst outcomes in Europe for asthma, with the 2014 National Review of Asthma Deaths concluding that as many as two thirds were preventable.

“Each year in London alone over 4,000 children and young people make an emergency hospital admission because of an asthma attack,” he said. “Of these, 170 have attacks that are so severe they require intubation and ventilation at a paediatric intensive care unit.”

Key solutions included regular risk assessments, sharing of information and improved staff training, said Dr Burch.

“There are also issues with patients not taking medications properly, having poor inhaler technique or not sticking to treatment plans, which we can support through the app,” he noted.

Healthy London Partnership

New asthma app to help young people manage condition

Asthma app

He added: “Our aim through this project is to engage young people with asthma to take control of their own health using their smartphones, helping prevent unnecessary suffering and unwanted hospital visits. If we can prevent even one serious attack, it will be worth it.”

Tracy Parr, head of children and young people at the Healthy London Partnership, said the app would encourage patients to take control and manage their asthma.

“There are a few simple steps that can be taken to help children and young people manage their asthma – having an asthma management plan, knowing how to correctly use their inhaler and having an annual asthma review,” she said.

She added: “The app allows clinicians and young people to save and access their asthma plan on their smartphones, meaning that wherever they are they will know what to do and the steps to follow.”

The app, which forms part of the partnership’s  #AskAboutAsthma campaign, user testing in October.

Nursing Times has asked the Healthy London Partnership how long testing is expected to take and when the product might become available.

A spokeswoman said the app was “ready for wide scale testing”.

“The app will be tested by clinicians with their patients and youth forums but will not go live with patients until approval is given that all clinical data is secure and to NHS standards,” she said.

“This is expected to take a couple more months,” she added.

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