Cambridge Consultants has today unveiled T-Haler, an asthma inhaler training device that more than doubles patient compliance.
With, on average, more than three Americans going to the emergency room every minute due to asthma attacks, the T-Haler could be a truly life-changing technology. Poor inhaler technique prevents patients receiving the full therapeutic benefit, and can often lead to more severe conditions that result in emergency room visits. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to asthma every day. Studies show that as many as three out of every four asthma sufferers fail to use their inhaler correctly and, while training can improve technique, it is mainly performed through observation and is generally ineffective.
With this in mind, Cambridge Consultants developed the T-Haler concept, a simple training device. Interactive software, linked to a wireless training inhaler, monitors how a patient uses their device and provides real-time feedback via an interactive video game. T-Haler provides visual feedback to the user on their performance and the areas that need improvement. These tools could help the estimated 235 million asthma sufferers worldwide to get the most from their inhaler, and potentially reduce the millions spent annually on asthma-related emergency room admissions.
More than 50 healthy participants, aged 18-60, took part in a recent study conducted by Cambridge Consultants to test the efficacy of T-Haler. Before using the training system, the average success rate of the group in using an inhaler correctly was in the low 20% range - in line with numerous other studies carried out. The participants had no prior experience with asthma or inhalers and were given no human instruction beyond being handed the T-Haler and told to begin. The on-screen interface walked the group through the process, which takes just three minutes to complete.
"What was remarkable about the T-Haler in our own study was how quickly the participants learned, and how well that knowledge stayed with them," said Kate Farrell, Senior Design Engineer, Medical Technology at Cambridge Consultants. "Without any human direction beyond the word 'go', participants went from around a 20% success rate without training to a success rate of more than 60% after only three minutes with the T-Haler device. This is more than twice the compliance rate we have seen in other studies with trained participants. Interestingly, a week later, 55% were still correctly using the device - showing that they retained what they learned."
The T-Haler measures three key factors for proper inhaler use. First, whether the patient has shaken the inhaler prior to breathing in; second, the force with which they breathed in; third, when they pressed down on the canister (the step which releases the drug). These three variables can determine the efficacy with which drugs are delivered in a real metered dose inhaler (MDI) device.