Asthmapolis is brainchild of David Van Sickle a researcher at University of Wisconsin-Madison. The basic idea is to equip inhalers with a GPS tag to determine when and where was it used by the patient. When such individual (de-identified, of course) medication data is aggregated, it can provide population care insight like environmental triggers and disease impact.

Seems like there are three components of the overall offering:

  1. A hardware device called “Spiroscout” – a small add-on that mounts the inhaler canister. Every time it is pushed, the location and time-stamp data is recorded.
  2. Mobile app – a ‘diary’ to keep track of symptoms, triggers, medications, etc. Can also be used to view map of data received from Spiroscout, and to get sms reminders for taking medication.
  3. Online website – a ‘dashboard’ of sorts. Can help summarize submitted data to figure out disease patterns and trends.

The hardware device is not out yet (website says it’ll be out this summer), and the mobile app is currently in private beta. So there is not much of real world testing that has happened. But I’m still positive about Asthmapolis, for a number of reasons.

First, it’s the right kind of ‘focused’ monitoring solution that can potentially be transformative for managing a specific disease (kinda like Regina Herzlinger‘s argument about ‘Focused Factories‘ as one of the ways to salvage the entire healthcare system). It’s better than trying to find a solution that can monitor multiple conditions (example 1, example 2). I think the mobile diary and online dashboard would be key engagement tools in this regard. The more focused and customizable, the better.

Second, it helps in medication adherence which is a big issue irrespective of the medical condition. I think that knowing whether you took your medications and getting reminders if you didn’t,  is more powerful than knowing when/where you took it. The mobile app reminders would be a great resource there (automated calls to landlines may be good too…for seniors).

Third, it helps understand the individual triggers and community impact of asthma. For successful asthma management, a patient should know his/her triggers and avoid getting exposed to them. That is not an easy task for a number of reasons. My initial reaction was that GPS may be a bit of an overkill. But with rapidly decreasing cost of location-aware technology, why not? Much better than using it to check-in to nearby McDonalds.