Friday, 1 April 2016

New mobile app has the potential to revolutionise asthma management in pregnancy

Asthma is a major public health concern, affecting one in 10 Australian adults. While there is no cure, asthma can be effectively managed. Asthma management is particularly important during pregnancy. The risk of pre-eclampsia, foetal growth restriction, preterm birth and the need for caesarean delivery are all recognised risk factors for asthmatics during pregnancy.

A group of multi-disciplinary researchers from SPHPM, the Centre for Medicine Use and Safety and Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering have developed a new telehealth program called MASTERY (management of asthma with supportive telehealth of respiratory function in pregnancy) and tested via a randomised controlled trial.

The MASTERY program, supported by the Monash Research Impact Fund, can help pregnant women monitor their asthma regularly, effectively and in partnership with their primary healthcare providers. The MASTERY telehealth program, involves the use of a mobile phone based Breathe-easy application to record asthma symptoms and medication usage. Breathe-easy users are supported by a handheld respiratory device that measures lung capacity and lung function. This data is securely transmitted to a central server where participants, health care professionals and researchers, can securely view the respiratory data. The program has been shown to improve both asthma control and asthma-related quality of life.

Professor Michael Abramson from SPHPM said the MASTERY telehealth program is innovative in its design and has shown to work successfully in tandem with primary health care providers.

“The MASTERY telehealth program has shown to improve health outcomes for pregnant women and their babies by taking an active role in their asthma management,” Professor Abramson said.

“The app helps patients manage their asthma through the provision of education, support, remote monitoring, instant feedback and telephone follow ups.”

According to the study, published in Respirology, the validity of lung function data obtained by the program using the handheld respiratory device is comparable to that of the data obtained in clinics or respiratory laboratories. Daily remote monitoring of the lung function makes it easier for health care professionals to address any worsening symptoms. Breathe-easy provides users with daily and weekly feedback regarding their asthma status — if their asthma control status is poor, the application recommends users to make changes in their treatment and/or contact their health care professional.

Effective management of asthma through a telehealth program could have major short and long term public health benefits. Not only does the program have the potential to influence health policy and improve health outcomes for pregnant women and their babies, it also has the capacity to be used by others in the community who suffer asthma and other respiratory conditions. The Breathe-easy app could be made widely applicable for routine clinical use, particularly for those with chronic respiratory issues.

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