Researchers in the United States are working on a way of using smartphones and smartwatches to help predict asthma attacks in children.
The mobile health (mHealth) platform would use sensors to collect data which is then transmitted to a cloud-based system and fed into each child’s electronic health record. Incorporating information on weather conditions, air quality, pollen count and other factors that could trigger asthma attacks, the system would alert children and their caregivers to the potential for an attack. It would also track asthma attacks on a calendar and alert users when conditions might be right for another attack.
The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering has awarded a $6 million (£4 million) grant to support the project at UCLA (the University of California, Los Angeles) and USC (the University of Southern California).
“Our goal is to predict where and when a child is at risk for an asthma attack so we can prevent one from happening,” explained Alex Bui, a professor of radiological sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the study’s principal investigator.
“One of the biggest challenges will be making the smart device user-friendly for young children,” Bui said. “Kids like intuitive interfaces with bright colours, simple language, big text and quirky noises. We’re having fun exploring how to build those facets into our design.”
The four-year grant is part of a national $144 million (£96 million) initiative called Pediatric Research using Integrated Sensor Monitoring Systems, or PRISMS. Other research teams funded by PRISMS will create secure apps that allow doctors and researchers to download and compare patients’ data.
Initial beta-testing of the UCLA-USC platform is planned to take place in 2016, and in 2017 the researchers will test the technology with children being treated at UCLA for asthma.