A patient at University of Pennsylvania Health System’s Lung Center and a paramedic have developed a digital spirometry test iPhone app to monitor pulmonary function from home. The co-founders of Sixth Sense Healthcare Innovation, who have cystic fibrosis, believe their device could change the way respiratory medicine and pulmonary monitoring is done.
They discussed the app and the relative scarcity of home monitoring devices available for cystic fibrosis patients at the e-Patient Connections conference in Philadelphia this week.
Sixth Sense Healthcare Innovations collaborated on the digital spirometry test with medical device company Medical International Research, a third party developer and University of Pennsylvania. Francis Xavier, the vice president of Sixth Sense, said Penn got involved after he had discussions about the device with healthcare professionals there. Among the things a spirometry test measures is the volume of air that can be forcibly blown out in one second, to assess lung capacity. It’s repeated three to four times to get the most accurate reading.
With 110 cystic fibrosis testing centers in the U.S., some cystic fibrosis patients may find it difficult to access a location nearby. The device would help patients test themselves from home on a regular basis, helping them track their condition. The data from the test would be sent to a server in an HL7 format, a widely used format for packaging healthcare data, and deposited in an electronic medical record. If the results vary significantly with previous recordings, an e-mail would be triggered.
Cystic fibrosis patients are particularly vulnerable to lung infections and it would be an asset to have devices that help them monitor their diseases, said Jonathan Michael, the company president.
Michael and Xavier pointed out that the patient population, estimated at 30,000 by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, is under-served when it comes to digital testing and monitoring devices. In contrast, there’s a huge variety of electronic testing devices for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to measure blood glucose levels and other tools to help people manage the disease. The Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patient population is significantly larger at 25.8 million in the U.S. alone.
“There have been dramatic improvements in technology for diabetes,” said Michael. “Why can’t we do that for other diseases?”
One of the problems Michael and Xavier said CF patients face is that different clinics serving CF patients have different ways of conveying datasets from pulmonary function tests and that can create a lot of confusion, they said. It can also be worrying for patients.
“This helps make patients’ data accessible to patients as well as the physician,” said Xavier. “It would make the patient a stronger partner in their care.”