UCLA, USC partner on mHealth projects to help young asthma patients

Scientists from University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California are embarking on a $6 million research effort to use smartphones and smartwatches to help young asthma sufferers improve thier health, according to an announcement.

The four-year grant project is the largest of nine supported by a $144 million National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering initiative called Pediatric Research Integrated Sensor Monitoring Systems (PRISMS). The initiative melds big data and mHealth tech to develop tools for assessing the environment's impact on children's health. 

"Our goal is to predict where and when a child is at risk for an asthma attack so we can prevent one from happening," Alex Bui, a professor of radiological sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the study's principal investigator, said in the announcement.

The UCLA-USC effort includes UCLA developing a platform to allow data sharing between smart devices and sensors worn by young asthmatics as well as sensors located at homes and schools. The tools, via the cloud, would integrate sensor-collected data into electronic health records and push out real-time reports on pollen count, air quality and other potential asthma attack triggers.

Chronic disease management is increasingly a focus of mHealth tools, as FierceMobileHealthcare has been reporting, as the technologies have potential to improve care and reduce healthcare costs tied to chronic diseases.

Recent research on a mobile device-based rehabilitation program for patients suffering from severe pulmonary disease revealed smartphone and real-time communications between home-based patients and providers can boost treatment and help reduce hospital readmissions.

Researchers at Southern Methodist University and the University of Maryland are collaborating on a wearable device to help pediatric asthma patients monitor and track pollen levels, carbon dioxide in blood and physical activity, as well as emotional state and breathing patterns, to determine what triggers an asthma attack.

"One of the biggest challenges will be making the smart device user-friendly for young children," Bui said in the announcement. "Kids like intuitive interfaces with bright colors, simple language, big text and quirky noises. We're having fun exploring how to build those facets into our design." 

The collected data will ultimately provide young asthmatics insight on potential attacks and impending risk issues.

"Let's say that a past attack took place during a trip to the beach," Bui said. "Before a future beach visit, the smart device will remind the child or their caregiver to pack their inhaler and take their medication to ward off a future episode." 

For more information:
- read the announcement

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