The MySpira app was developed by UK digital agency Orbital Media in collaboration with the University of Suffolk.

New app uses gamification, augmented reality to help children with asthma

By Leontina Postelnicu
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Credit: MySpira

A new app for asthma sufferers promises to provide another means of improving training and awareness of correct inhaler technique by using gamification and an augmented reality functionality released by Google (ARCore) and Apple (ARKit).

Called MySpira, the app, which aims to help children aged six to 13, was developed by UK-based digital agency Orbital Media in conjunction with the University of Suffolk through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership. It was partly funded by Innovate UK and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

WHY IT MATTERS

According to Asthma UK, around 1.1 million children and 4.3 million adults are currently receiving treatment for the condition in the UK, and every 10 seconds someone is having an asthma attack that is potentially fatal.

“A good inhaler technique significantly cuts the risk of having an asthma attack – if your technique isn’t correct, you might not be getting the full dose of medicine prescribed. Common mistakes I see include inadequate shaking of canister before inhalation, inhaling too fast or too slowly and not using it at the right angle,” said Karyn McBride, asthma nurse and medical advisor to MySpira. “There is a real need for better – and modernised – education, so patients, including children, can take control of their asthma.”

HOW IT WORKS

The MySpira app provides educational information about asthma care by introducing characters and tactile interactions, combined in a 20-minute long experience, to keep children engaged. It aims to help them distinguish between different types of inhalers and learn about asthma triggers, among others.

The team behind the app carried out a pilot study to evaluate its efficacy among school children aged between six to 13 and identify whether it could improve retention of information compared to other methods, such as reading leaflets and watching videos.

Over 95 children from local schools - not suffering from asthma - in Suffolk that participated in the study were randomised in three groups, leaflet, video and MySpira, and were also stratified in two age groups – from six to nine and 10 to 13.  

Each of them had to complete a questionnaire before going through the material and after doing so, with the content presented being sourced from the NHS, Asthma UK and other online resources.

The team said findings suggested that the children could overall retain information 26% better by using the app compared to videos, and 70% better compared to leaflets, with the full paper expected to be published later this year.

The plan now is to evaluate the efficacy of the app in enhancing patient outcomes by helping to improve inhaler technique.

ON THE RECORD

“The initial results of this research are extremely promising, improving both technique and compliance. Not only does this lead to better health long-term, but if adopted nationwide, could dramatically reduce the number of emergency cases, resulting in fewer hospitalisations,” said Dr Simon Rudland, partner at Stowhealth and MySpira medical advisor. “We are looking at integrating this app into our existing asthma support services in the future.” 

Peter Brady, CEO of Orbital Media, added: “Our vision was to develop an application to improve educational content, which would ultimately cut the number of preventable child deaths. In addition, MySpira helps children gain confidence about self-care; engaging and teaching them how to manage asthma independently. It puts them back in control of their condition and is something they will take with them into adulthood.”

The app, which has an introductory price of £0.99, can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play and works on devices supporting Apple ARKit or Google ARCore.