A breath in the right direction: new asthma training device more than doubles proper use rates

Cambridge Consultants’ new T-Haler applies sensor and wireless technology to patient-focused design in life-saving innovation

Cambridge Consultants, a leading technology design and development firm, has created T-Haler, an asthma inhaler training device. A recent study has shown the T-Haler more than doubles patient compliance.

With a person suffering from an asthma attack being taken to an accident and emergency department every seven minutes in theUKalone, the T-Haler could be a truly life-changing technology. Poor inhaler technique prevents patients receiving the full therapeutic benefit, and can often lead to more severe conditions that result in A&E visits. According to AsthmaUK, an estimated 75% of hospital admissions for asthma are avoidable and as many as 90% of deaths from asthma are preventable. Studies show that as many as three out of every four asthma sufferers fail to use their inhaler correctly and, while training can improve technique, it is mainly performed through observation and is generally ineffective.

With this in mind, Cambridge Consultants developed the T-Haler concept, a simple training device.  Interactive software, linked to a wireless training inhaler, monitors how a patient uses their device and provides real-time feedback via an interactive video ‘game’. T-Haler provides visual feedback to the user on their performance and the areas that need improvement. These tools could help the estimated 235 million asthma sufferers worldwide to get the most from their inhaler, and potentially reduce the millions spent annually on asthma-related A&E visits.

More than 50 healthy participants, aged 18-60, took part in a recent study conducted by Cambridge Consultants to test the efficacy of T-Haler. Before using the training system, the average success rate of the group in using an inhaler correctly was in the low 20% range – in line with numerous other studies carried out. The participants had no prior experience with asthma or inhalers and were given no human instruction beyond being handed the T-Haler and told to begin. The on-screen interface walked the group through the process, which takes just three minutes to complete.

“What was remarkable about the T-Haler in our own study was how quickly the participants learned, and how well that knowledge stayed with them,” said Kate Farrell, Senior Design Engineer, Medical Technology at Cambridge Consultants. “Without any human direction beyond the word ‘go’, participants went from around a 20% success rate without training to a success rate of more than 60% after only three minutes with the T-Haler device. This is more than twice the compliance rate we have seen in other studies with trained participants. Interestingly, a week later, 55% were still correctly using the device – showing that they retained what they learned.”

The T-Haler measures three key factors for proper inhaler use. First, whether the patient has shaken the inhaler prior to breathing in; second, the force with which they breathed in; third, when they pressed down on the canister (the step which releases the drug). These three variables can determine the efficacy with which drugs are delivered in a real metered dose inhaler (MDI) device.

The T-Haler is the latest example of Cambridge Consultants applying its expertise in ‘Px’ development – the art and science of designing around the patient experience, often through a consumer lens. The firm was able to produce the training concept by taking a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem, and drew on its expertise in human factors, user interface design, mechanical and electronics engineering, wireless connectivity and drug delivery. Although T-Haler is not market ready yet, the training concept was created to show what could be achieved with simple, well-understood technologies that are readily available, and the difference such a device could make in helping to reduce both the anguish caused and the cost of treatment for such a common disease.

As healthcare trends toward a focus on preventive care and devices which offer greater consumer appeal and compliance, innovations such as the T-Haler may soon become the norm in doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and clinics.

For more information please visit http://www.cambridgeconsultants.com/news_pr319.html

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