Asthma UK survey renews call for better use of digital health solutions.

Health professionals are failing to adopt new technology to help improve the management of asthma, the charity Asthma UK has warned.

Its latest survey has found that “two thirds of people are still not receiving the basic care they need to manage their asthma,” and there are also “wide variations in the level of care reported between different parts of the country.” The Annual Asthma Survey 2016 Report was published in early January.

Only 42% of the 4,560 respondents in the survey said they had been given an asthma action plan in 2016. This was an improvement from 36% in the 2015 survey and 24% in 2013, but “the large number of people who still don’t have a written asthma action plan is concerning.” In addition, “seven out of ten people with asthma who end up in hospital are not given a follow-up appointment with a GP or nurse.”

Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK said: “With the 2014 National Review of Asthma Deaths reporting two out of three asthma deaths are preventable with good basic care, it is hugely disappointing that the latest Asthma UK care survey shows little has changed since that damning report. 

“It is clear that expecting old ways to tackle long-standing problems won’t work. We must take a bold, new approach and take advantage of new asthma digital health solutions to transform the way asthma care is delivered and support self-management. Digital asthma action plans, smart inhalers, and automated GP alerts are just some of the ways asthma care could be brought up to date and help reduce the risk of potentially fatal asthma attacks.”

In August 2016, Asthma UK published a report, ‘Connected Asthma: how technology will transform care’, which highlighted how such technologies “could be used to completely transform the NHS asthma care pathway by reducing routine GP appointments and enabling people to manage their own condition.”

Key applications of technology in asthma flagged up in the ‘Connected asthma’ report include:

  • Smart inhalers for adherence monitoring
  • Health apps to track treatment use and to help people with asthma avoid triggers
  • Remote monitoring to support asthma management
  • Digital versions of the asthma action plan
  • Risk stratification tools help identify asthma patients most at risk of an attack and who require urgent help to prevent a life-threatening event
  • Electronic prescribing alerts to highlight where people with asthma have been prescribed excessive quantities of reliever inhalers, or too few preventer inhalers.

Asthma accounts for 2-3% of all primary care consultations at a cost of £52 million. The cost of an emergency admission is 23 times that of an annual asthma review. Asthma UK estimates 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma In the UK: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).