EEDD’s (Electronically Enabled Delivery Devices) are being deployed in the treatment of yet another chronic disease. Insulin pens with timers (as add-ons or built-in) appeared in the past couple of years to help patients keep track of insulin units injected. Now the recently FDA-approved Asthmapolis inhaler accessory monitors compliance, provides reminders and helps self-management of asthma. And, according to the Asthmapolis website, the on-board GPS identifies ‘spatial and temporal patterns of disease’ which can be used by epidemiologists and public health researchers to access the latest, objective data on asthma in their community.
The crucial system component is the patient’s mobile phone, which stores and tracks data from the device and presents information to patients. By the end of 2012 there will apparently be more mobile phones than people on this planet, so the opportunities to utilise them to improve the management of chronic conditions – like asthma and diabetes – are obvious.
So well done Asthmapolis, a great start and I can’t wait to see how the technology is adopted and then what impact it has. I see a lot of parallels between this and what Nike are doing with their successful Nike+ and Fuel concepts. With Nike you buy an accessory that goes in your running shoe or a Fuel watch/bracelet and it records activity which is transmitted to your mobile phone for you to track your progress and share with friends through social networks. For me, this shows that people are taking an active interest in their health and hopefully this bodes well for Asthmapolis and other drug delivery accessories.
There are many other conditions where GPS, apps and mobile phones could provide a simple aide or prompt to take medication and also monitor and improve compliance; leading to better clinical outcomes, improved wellbeing and, incidentally, better returns on healthcare expenditure. For example, how about patients who take regular, but infrequent, therapies for chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or MS? A monthly injection can be forgotten all too easily leading to uneven patterns of medication and reduced effectiveness. Or how about using the mobile phone to strongly encourage patients to complete courses of antibiotics? This is especially relevant now that many currently available antibiotics have lost effectiveness, largely due to misuse which includes failure to complete prescribed courses.
It’s time to take a fresh look at leveraging the benefits of the powerful and ubiquitous mobile phone as a core component of the ‘patient experience’. If only we apply some imagination and Nike-style inspiration.
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Head of Design Research
Martin Bontoft is an ergonomist, user researcher and design strategist. His key contribution is in understanding human needs, and communicating them to design teams in a way that informs and inspires.