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LA Project Uses mHealth Devices to Help Low-Income Kids With Asthma

Backed by a $250,000 grant, SmartAirLA will be launching an mHealth project aimed at improving care management and coordination for low-income children living with asthma.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- A California health plan is launching a new effort to put mHealth devices into the hands of those who need them the most: underserved children.

The Blue Shield of California Foundation, a not-for-profit health plan and philanthropic organization, is issuing a $250,000 grant to the public-private partnership SmartAirLA to provide smart inhalers to low-income children living with asthma. The connected health project aims to give those children and their caregivers a telehealth link to improve care management and coordination.

“This project puts the internet-of-things in the hands of the people who need it the most, underserved children who are literally struggling for breath,” Peter Long, PhD, the foundation’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “And it will help their communities advocate for a healthier environment with a powerful new dataset.” 

Also taking part in the program is Adherium, a Silicon Valley-based developer of digital health tools for medication adherence. Participants in the program will be receiving the company’s Hailie sensor, which attaches to an inhaler, and accompanying mHealth app platform, available on both Android and iOS.

“Our objective together with the partners leading this program is to reduce asthma-related hospitalizations, decrease asthma-related student absenteeism, and lessen exposure to pollution that leads to asthma exacerbation,” company CEO Arik Anderson said in a separate release. “SmartAirLA will equip families with the Hailie solution to track adherence, and allow physicians to use the data to customize treatment to each individual.”

Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization in the US for children under 15 and the leading cause of missed school days among children aged 5-17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It’s also a chronic condition that’s well-suited for mHealth and telehealth intervention. Studies have shown that smart inhalers, which track medication use and connect users with their care providers, can reduce hospitalizations caused by poor asthma control and improve care management and coordination.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Health system announced a partnership with pharma giant AstraZeneca to launch an mHealth platform for its patients with asthma.

The connected health suite – which officials say might someday be used as a blueprint for remote patient monitoring programs - includes an mHealth app and the Provider Asthma Management Assistant digital health platform, which integrates patient-entered data into Geisinger’s electronic health record to give care providers, including asthma educators, respiratory therapists and specialists, a better view of the patient’s overall health in between doctor’s visits.

Connected health devices like smart inhalers can also be used to collect population health data, enabling healthcare providers and researchers to identify unhealthy areas and conditions which could negatively affect people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Among the most notable examples is Louisville, Ky., which partnered with Propeller Health in a two-year project to track medication use and environment that ultimately doubled symptom-free days for residents with asthma.

Los Angeles city officials say they’re hoping to see those same results.

“SmartAirLA holds great promise for improving the health outcomes among children in Los Angeles County with asthma, and for identifying potentially toxic community environments in need of remediation,” Dr. Paul Simon, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Chief Science Officer, said in the press release.

“The health and environmental data collected by SmartAirLA will benefit the City of Los Angeles’ clean air and sustainability efforts and help us to better support healthy data-driven outcomes for all Angelenos,” added Jeanne Holm, the Senior Technology Advisor to the Mayor of Los Angeles.

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