Various health, fitness and wellbeing apps are nothing new. However, until now, they have been unregulated, of varying quality and genuine medical value debatable. A new breed of approved digital therapy aids assessed to the same standards of clinical trials as pharmaceuticals is now changing that. Apps do not of course treat diseases and conditions but done right they can form a crucial role in their tracking and management by gathering and providing data. This data can also be used by scientists researching more effective drugs and other forms of treatment and prevention.
Asthma apps have been among the first digital therapy aids in this trend, with GSK’s MyAsthma app last year winning the AXA PPP Healthcare Health Tech & You Trending Award 2017. GSK’s product is not the only option available with alternatives including SaniQ, offered by German medical software company Qurasoft, KM Asthma, Breathcount and Peak Flow.
Different asthma apps have different layouts and can have varying depth of functionalities and options. However, most help the user keep track of medications and symptoms. External factors such as pollen count and the weather are also often monitored by the app. When recorded alongside symptoms, users and their doctors can look for correlation, patterns and triggers. Asthma apps like MyAsthma can also often be linked to other broader health apps or wearables such as Apple Health and Fitbits to add additional layers of information which could potentially influence symptoms.
Almost 5.5 million people in the UK suffer from asthma of varying levels of severity. GSK’s global digital director Kai Gait explains the growing role of apps as a valuable compliment to medication:
“Apps are becoming increasingly sophisticated and as more people use them to help manage their health, we found that people wanted to connect their health and fitness apps together.
“We designed MyAsthma so you can connect it with leading wearable devices and popular fitness apps, bringing your data together to understand how asthma may affect your daily activities and sleep. Overlay this with environmental data and information relating to your asthma triggers, and MyAsthma will give you relevant information to help inform how you manage your disease.”
When an app has enough users, or researchers can access the data of several apps, the volume of data is expected to go a long way to helping scientists better understand conditions such as asthma. This is expected over time to make a valuable contribution to the development of more effective treatments and management techniques.