Battling Asthma with GPS Technology

November 9th, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

A new device promises to track environmental triggers for asthma.

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I’ve used a rescue inhaler for years to treat asthma symptoms related to allergies and sports fatigue. Do I know some of my triggers? Sure, I should generally avoid cats, strenuous exercise and dust. But according to the Healthy Outlook blog, a new tool called Asthmapolis has turned tracking asthma triggers into an exact science.

The success of Asthmapolis is rooted in a small device called the “spiroscout” that clamps onto the end of most inhalers. The attachment is GPS-enabled and tracks exactly where and when patients use their inhalers throughout the day. According to an article in The Economist, that usage data is then wirelessly uploaded directly from the “spiroscout” to a central computer. That computer sends weekly reports to patients and their doctors while also creating a database of public health data that could impact the long-term treatment of asthma.

Asthmapolis’s CEO and co-founder, David Van Sickle, an honorary associate fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former outbreak investigator for the Centers for Disease Control, created Asthmapolis because he grew frustrated “by a lack of timely and objective data about events and the burden of asthma in normal day-to-day life.” Van Sickle argues that asthma patients cannot be effectively treated until there is adequate data on environmental and behavioral triggers.

But beyond public health research, Asthmapolis acts as a social network of sorts for asthma sufferers. Using online dashboards and smartphone screens, patients can keep event diaries and see their attacks mapped out over charts, tables and trends. Furthermore, they can share both their diaries and their data anonymously with other patients.

What do you think of place-based social networking for asthma patients? Are you an asthma sufferer who would take advantage of this program? Or do you believe discussions about personal health should stay off the social media airwaves? Sound off here.