Children's Health app at center of effort to help patients manage asthma

Technology plays a vital role in Children's Health's work to reduce emergency department readmissions for asthma patients.

At the center of the health system's efforts, which cut ED readmissions in half according to a recent white paper, is the My Asthma Pal app.

The North Texas area has a significant number of children with asthma, so the condition has been a huge focus for the health system as well as for its partner, the Health and Wellness Alliance for Children, Julie Hall-Barrow, vice president of virtual health and innovation at Children's Health, tells FierceHealthIT.

Through the partnership, My Asthma Pal was born, which provides education to children and families, allows them to record their medications and enables access to a digital copy of their asthma action plan.

Much of what went into the creation of the app at the outset was based on provider needs, such as an asthma control test, as well as more education for the patients and parents.

However, Hall-Barrow notes the importance of having the tool give families what they need. The health system conducted focus groups with patients and parents to make sure they were getting the most out of the app.

One feature that came from those discussions was the ability for family members to share a child's asthma action plan with other providers, caregivers and family members.

"If a child has a new action plan, they can take it from the app and send it via email to their school nurse or to their babysitter or to another family member," she says. "You used to have that on a piece of paper, and it was never with you when you most needed it."

In addition, Hall-Barrow says the newest iteration of the app now allows data to flow between patients and providers. Originally, information was housed only on the app, but now the data will go into the Children's network. The next step, she says, will be to integrate that data into a patient's electronic medical record.

Hall-Barrow adds that there are security layers built into the app, and that privacy also was thought about carefully.

"As you build apps in which children are giving you health information, there need to be consents along with that," she says. "The child needs to be older to provide that kind of information, so if they are under 13 they need parental sign off to use the app."

The app isn't the only piece of the pie when it comes to asthma management, Hall-Barrow adds. The Children's virtual program is working on other efforts in the area, as well, such as virtual health in schools through live telemedicine consults and making sure children in its asthma management program are using all virtual resources.

On the heels of the success of My Asthma Pal, Children's also is in the process of creating an app to help children with diabetes, specifically geared toward aiding patients managing the condition when they get sick, Hall-Barrow says.

If a child comes down with a cold or gets a sore throat, the algorithm-based app is there to help them self-manage during the moments when a traditional regime doesn't work, she says. For that project, focus groups with families have just ended and the health system is adding in features based on suggestions that came out of those discussions.