A treatment adjustment algorithm based on lung function and symptoms inputted to a mobile app could be an efficient tool in managing uncontrolled asthma, according to a new study.

The app, known as AsthmaTuner, was developed at the Swedish Karolinska Institutet.

Asthma affects around 10% of the Swedish population, half of whom have ‘uncontrolled’ asthma and frequently experience breathing difficulties or asthma attacks.

Uncontrolled asthma is often exacerbated by inadequate management or incorrect use of medicines, particularly in paediatric patients. However, this can be improved by patient education which focuses on self-care, self-testing and clear management plans.

Through a wireless spirometer connected to a phone, AsthmaTuner analyses respiratory symptoms and provides visual feedback on treatment. This is collated into an individual treatment plan.

The system analyses lung function and symptoms in accordance with asthma-care guidelines, before giving feedback in the form of automated, doctor-approved treatment recommendations.

Users also receive a picture of the inhaler that is used and instructions on whether the medication should be maintained, increased or decreased.

A study published in the European Respiratory Journal followed 77 uncontrolled asthma patients, who were randomly selected to use AsthmaTuner for a minimum of eight weeks or were given a printed individual treatment plan. The patients who used the digital tool were seen to have a greater improvement in their symptoms than those given a traditional treatment plan.

Karolinska Institutet paediatric nurse and research lead Björn Nordlund said: “In parts, the results were hard to interpret. However, we could see that asthma symptoms improved more with the digital tool than they did with traditional care.

“Adult patients who used the tool at least once a week also more often remembered to take their medicines. Thus, we conclude that this tool can contribute to alleviating uncontrolled asthma sufferers’ symptoms.”

As asthma requires long-term, regular management, the research team is now working on a larger, long-term study through the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Stockholm.