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

  • Date 12 Mar 2012

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

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.

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.

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