Cambridge Consultants demos asthma training device

By Brian Dolan
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T-HalerMedical device design and development consultancy Cambridge Consultants showed off its latest creation this week, an asthma inhaler training device called the T-Haler. According to the company the concept device "more than doubles patient compliance." More than three Americans head to the emergency every minute because of an asthma attack, according to the company. About 5,000 people in the US visit the emergency room because of an asthma attack each day, based on a study done by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Since studies show that as many as 75 percent of people with asthma do not use their inhalers properly, Cambridge Consultants believes its device can help.

Here's how the company describes its offering: "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... 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."

A report over at CNET noted that a similar device is already available: The AeroChamber aims to address the improper use of metered dose inhalers, but it's only prescribed to those who have had difficulty using traditional inhalers.

This isn't the first concept for a connected inhaler that Cambridge Consultants has showed off: In 2009 it first demonstrated its Vena Inhaler, which focused more on patient medication adherence instead of training. Asthmapolis has created its own connected asthma device that tracks inhaler usage and the location of asthma attacks. More recently, iSonea announced plans to create a smartphone-enabled version of its Wheezometer device for people with asthma.

For more on the concept T-Haler device, read the press release below:

PRESS RELEASE: Cambridge, MA and UK – Cambridge Consultants, a leading technology design and development firm, has created T-Haler, an asthma inhaler training device. A recent study has shown the T-Haler 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.

The T-Haler is the latest example of Cambridge Consultants applying its expertise in ‘Px’ development – the art and science of designing around the patient experience, often through a consumer lens. The firm was able to produce the training concept by taking a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem, and drew on its expertise in human factors, user interface design, mechanical and electronics engineering, wireless connectivity and drug delivery. Although T-Haler is not market ready yet, the training concept was created to show what could be achieved with simple, well-understood technologies that are readily available, and the difference such a device could make in helping to reduce both the anguish caused and the cost of treatment for such a common disease.

As healthcare trends toward a focus on preventive care and devices which offer greater consumer appeal and compliance, innovations such as the T-Haler may soon become the norm in doctors’ offices, pharmacies and clinics.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology critical issues for clients worldwide. For 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of over 300 engineers, designers, scientists and consultants, in offices in Cambridge (UK) and Boston (USA), Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, transport, energy, cleantech and wireless communications. For more information visit: www.CambridgeConsultants.com

Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, the European leader in innovation and high technology consulting. The Group’s 17,500 consultants, operating worldwide, cover the entire range of engineering specialities, including electronics, information technology, quality and organization. Altran offers its clients ongoing support throughout the innovation cycle, from technology watch, applied basic research and management consulting to industrial systems engineering and information systems. The Group provides services to most industries, including the automotive, aeronautics, space, life sciences and telecommunications sectors. Founded in 1982, Altran operates in 20 priority countries. In 2008, it generated a turnover of €1,650 million. For more information visit: www.altran.com

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