“It’s just a prototype”: When my asthma app dreams came true, and then died seconds later
Last updated: March 2023
One weekend in mid-September, I stood at the back of a classroom at Stanford University Medical School during the MedicineX conference. Up front, a presentation was underway about an app for chronic disease management, that was made up of everything I’d ever dreamed of.
It would pick up air quality information and pollen counts. It would ask you simple questions to help you begin to trend your asthma. If you were in a situation that you wanted to track more closely, you’d hit a button on your phone and it would begin more in depth monitoring of the data being collected such as respiratory rate or oxygen saturation, and then by completing the recording (think an Activity Record on Fitbit, for those who use them), a patient would be able to gather more personalized information to help them see what might directly contribute to or prevent symptoms from getting worse. The example included a woman with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which—like asthma—might be impacted by the things we inhale in our environments, or exercise. And, it was a beautiful app.
I typed the name of the app into the AppStore as the presenter was speaking. I came up with nothing related to their presentation, which annoyed me. I probably pacified myself for a moment thinking maybe it was not on the Canadian app store.
And then, nearing the end, the presenter said “This is just a prototype."
Prototype. In this case, also known as “We had a graphic designer put together all these mock-ups that look like a real app, but actually it’s just a concept that could one day maybe in 40 years be a real app when your phone is just a hologram in your hand."
You can tell I was a little bitter, right?
I may have grumbled about it for an hour, or until I was done eating lunch and my friends knew that I was not a fan of the hijinks of that presentation.
For me, learning about new technology that could help me with my asthma management is extremely exciting. I am not partial to any of the apps out there, which means I’ve resorted to building my own thing to help me manage my asthma. For a few moments I had hope that this magical thing that I want—that tracks everything I want to, from peak flows and FEV1 to environmental information, to letting me input stuff—exists and is beautiful to look at, and I just hadn’t found it.
And then it did not exist.
It was sort of like a made-personally-for-me version of when the ice cream truck gets away too fast, or This Content Is Not Available In Your Country or a Kickstarter that doesn’t meet its goal, or that time my friend Jessica and I drove up to Lake Louise, Alberta, only to not find a parking spot in all of Lake Louise and so we turned around and went back to Banff.
So, “just a prototype” does not exist.
But at least now we know that people are thinking about us, and how to make managing asthma less confusing through super smart technology.
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