Smartphone App to Aid Asthma Management in Children

By Sarah Matheson, Epoch Times
October 17, 2013 Updated: October 28, 2013

NEW YORK—A startup tech company is preparing to launch a smartphone application (app) that monitors respiratory functions and promotes adherence to taking asthma medication.

CoheroHealth is preparing to launch a pilot of the app in January through Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and is aiming for a full market launch later in 2014.

Founder of the New York-based startup, Melissa Manice is a postdoctoral fellow with Mount Sinai. She completed her doctoral degree in clinical research in pediatrics.

“I could spend my lifetime studying the problem or I can come up with a really meaningful solution,” she said.

The game app, called AsthmaHero, uses a sensor on the inhaler to monitor the child taking the medication. With the help of a separate app, SpiroSmart, developed by the University of Washington, the microphone on the child’s iPhone could be used to take an audio file of the child’s breath and then convert it into a spirometry reading. The SpiroSmart technology is pending FDA and patent approval, and an agreement with CoheroHealth to use the technology has not been defined.

When the child uses the inhaler at the times scheduled and records each breath when asked, the character in the game gets stronger, and gets add-ons like swords.

As the children continue to take their medicine and record their breaths, the character proceeds through different levels in the game, and the children are rewarded with iTunes gift cards.

Researchers at the University of Washington are currently seeking FDA approval for the use of the microphone sensor on the iPhone to capture lung function data. The data collected through the app will be transferred to the child’s doctor in real time through software that is currently being developed.

Currently asthmatic children are given a peak flow meter to measure their breaths, or spirometry data. Manice said children’s adherence to using the traditional device, and reporting the data to their doctors, is very low.

But a poor spirometric reading can indicate that an asthma attack is looming. Manice said a large number of emergency room visits for asthmatic children could be prevented if they would take their medicine as prescribed.

“It [the app] keeps kids out of the emergency room and saves a lot of costs for the health care system,” Manice said.

Manice has been running a testing pilot with 12- though 19-year-olds, “targeting that teen population, but knowing that it will have the potential to be used by young adults,” she said.

A pharmaceutical company has already expressed interest in using a similar app for cystic fibrosis patients, who also need to use an inhaler, Manice said.

AsthmaHero also sends children reminders through their smartphones when they have not taken their medications—a push notification, a text, or an email.

Manice said funding for the app, aside from investors, would come from health insurers that are starting to reimburse for disease-management mobile tools, and pharmaceutical companies that produce the asthma medications.

CORRECTION: The article incorrectly stated that CoheroHealth’s AsthmaHero app uses the iPhone microphone to record an audio file of a child’s breath and convert it into a spirometry reading.  This patent-pending technology is a separate iPhone app named SpiroSmart that was developed by the University of Washington.