Asthma is a lifelong lung disease that makes breathing difficult for millions of Americans. According to CDC data, the number of asthma sufferers in the U.S. increased to 25 million, or about 1 in 12 people. About 45% of people with asthma reported having one or more asthma attacks in 2014, which also caused 3,651 deaths. Worldwide, numbers are much bigger. It is estimated that 300 million people suffer from asthma worldwide, which causes 250,000 annual deaths.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for asthma, which can limit a person's quality of life significantly. Most people with asthma need to learn how to live with it, i.e. how to control their symptoms and prevent attacks by avoiding asthma triggers and correctly using prescribed medicines, which can help them lead a normal, healthy life.
In the fight for managing asthma, providers, patients, and their families use various tools, including those made for mobile devices. Dr. Sam Pejham created an app for iPhone and Android phones called AsthmaMD, which allows users - primarily patients and their families - to log their asthma activity, medications they use, and their asthma triggers in the form of a diary and color graph charts that can be shared with their physicians. The main goal of this app is to help researchers better understand what triggers the asthma attacks, which may have a great impact in advancing asthma research.
Before starting using the app, you'll have to create an account and provide some information about yourself (if you're the asthma sufferer) or your family member who has asthma. Some information is mandatory, such as your name, email and password, DoB, height, and sex, while some of it can be provided optionally, such as highest peak flow or highest FEV-1. Users can also add their doctor's email.
After finishing registration, you'll be taken to the main screen, which allows you to enter basic data, such as date (which is today by default) or peak flow, which can be entered using either using numpad or wheel. Peak flow values also have color indicators, which will suggest if the values are normal, worse or critical (the values are calculated automatically, based on your age and height). As you've probably figured out, this allows you to log you daily peak flow values and track them later.
Beside peak flow values and date, which both expect numeric entries, you can also enter symptoms by choosing one or more from the list of well, worse and critical symptoms. This part is straightforward, listing basic asthma symptoms, from a cough, wheeze, shortness of breath or chest tightness, to critical signs or no symptoms at all.
Next, you can enter some triggers that may initiate asthma attack or make the symptoms worse, from animal dander, dust mites, to cold air. You can also add triggers that are not on the list. You'll be also asked if you've been tested for allergens and offered to read more about it on the app's companion website.
Finally, you can enter medications from the list of simple prescriptions, which includes rescue (quick-relief) medications and other asthma medications, or you can create asthma action plan. The plan is also triggered when you select one or more medications from the list.
The plan will take you through 6 steps, with the first step being the medication(s) you've chosen. You'll be asked to choose your controller medication as well in the following step.
Stage 3 of the action plan is so called the 'green zone' showing the form, doses, and frequencies for your rescue and controller medications, which are normal doses recommended by your physician.
Stage 4 allows you to adjust your medication for the 'yellow zone' which may indicate a beginning of an asthma attack, when your medicine needs to be increased, as advised by your physician.
Stage 5 is the 'red zone', with doses of your rescue medication only. However, if you are experiencing any severe asthma symptoms, indicating that you are in the 'red zone', you need to get medical attention immediately!
Stage 6 of the asthma action plan includes phone numbers, yours, your doctor's and emergency number (911 or other numbers you may enter), along with a disclaimer button you use to confirm that the action plan is issued by a physician.
Entering daily values will allow you to track them using a Diary-chart, which will list all symptoms and peak flows registered for a particular date. If you rotate your screen horizontally, the screen turns into the three-color chart (green, yellow and red), representing the same information visually. Although this is a really neat feature, you have no option to see exact values on the graph, only when you rotate your screen back.
Also, after entering and saving the data, you'll be asked to start action plan, which will take you step-by-step through each scenario, depending on the data you've entered for each 'zone.' The action plan can be accessed anytime by tapping on lung icon in the footer.
The AsthmaMD app also allows you to set reminders for taking your medication. If you rotate your screen you'd get another graph showing overall and ideal adherence.
You can also customize the app using Settings section. Here you can edit your profile details, add people to share your asthma records with (your physician), or add some advanced options, such as notes, FEV-1 or pulse oximetry, which will be added to the data entry list on the main screen.
Here you can also adjust formulas used for measuring peak flow or FEV-1 or check more details about the app., including four tutorial videos hosted on YouTube, on how to use peak flow meter, explaining asthma, medication, and the AsthmaMD app itself.
It is possible to track more than one patient with this app. You can simply tap on Change user button on the main screen and add another patient. This is particularly useful for healthcare providers who have more than one asthma patient to monitor.
It should be noted that the AsthmaMD app gathers the information for research purposes anonymously. However, there's no clear information on how the app's users participate, or how they can opt-out if they're not comfortable to share their personal information.
Despite this flaw, visually appealing design and intuitive interface, as well as adherence to recommendations and guidelines made by authorities in medical field, make the AsthmaMD app very easy tool to use for both healthcare providers and their patients, helping them monitor asthma symptoms, triggers, peak flows and medications they use to keep asthma under control.
Benefit: The app is made for asthma patients and their families, as well as their healthcare providers, including family practitioners, pediatricians, pulmonologists and allergists