Puffing towards the future

I count myself as lucky that I no longer try to keep tabs on how many puffs are left in my inhaler using manual methods. When I was first diagnosed I would write the date in sharpie on my controller so that I knew when its 30 days were up. Keeping track of rescue puffs was an even less precise science, involving a sticky note stuck to my desk or a knitting counter tossed in with spacer and epinephrine. A few years back all the medications I take started coming with dose counters built in. Now if I take puffs out of an empty inhaler it is because I haven’t turned it around to see that the dose counter has reached the red zero.

I look forward to the next wave of inhaler design innovation. I assume this will come in the form of “smart” inhalers. I know Kerri has made her own version of medication tracking with a smart phone and NFC tags. You know you’re an engaged patient if you pass the time on Amtrak by playing around with medication tracking technology. I haven’t found the motivation to hack together my own system yet. More data about my medication adherence could improve and inform my asthma treatment decisions. To be frank, at this point it seems like adding trackers to my medications would be too much work for a marginal gain. I am currently very satisfied with my asthma control. It’s not broken so I’m not going to try to fix it.

Who knows my answer may change now that I only have an annual asthma check up. Later this year we’ll see how well I remember my asthma symptoms and medication usage when I go see the doctor. I hope I will have a pretty good idea of what my asthma has looked like since I last saw my doctor. An easy way bell weather for me is if my rescue inhaler expires before I use up all the doses. While this certainly isn’t a perfect analog for my asthma control it is one way that I cram the night before a doctor’s appointment to say how my asthma has been doing. Smart inhaler technology is currently in the clinical trial phase, one study using the  Propeller inhaler add on that pairs with a phone app found that over the course of a year patients “used less reliever medication, had more reliever-free days and had improved asthma control”.1 Smart inhalers are expected to launch by Novartis with Qualcomm technology in 2019.1 The future of an inhaler that reports back to my phone and can sync to my doctor’s records may be right around the corner.

It is exciting to see technology advances come to our community. Of course there are privacy concerns as our world becomes more and more connected.  I personally wouldn’t object to having an inhaler that communicated with my phone or tablet via Bluetooth. Yes, some nefarious person could theoretically steal the data. I just can’t imagine my controller and reliever inhaler data is that interesting to anyone other than me and my care team. I look forward to the day where smart dose tracking is standard like regular dose counters seem to have become. Are you ready to embrace smart inhalers?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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