Devices & Diagnostics

An asthma inhaler and app designed from the patient’s point of view

Misplace your inhaler lately? Are you due for a refill? Staying away from spots that exacerbate your asthma? A senior at Drexel University re-imagined an asthma inhaler with a companion app so users can keep a personal record of the quality of their breathing and do a better job of managing their health.

Misplace your inhaler lately? Are you due for a refill? Staying away from spots that exacerbate your asthma? A senior at Drexel University re-imagined an asthma inhaler with a companion app so users can keep a personal record of the quality of their breathing and do a better job of managing their health. Who better to design this product than an asthma patient who has had to live with the condition most of his life?

Osman Cueto developed BREATHE: The Connected Inhaler to help the 40 million people with asthma, according to a statement from the university. The companion app can trigger an alarm that helps users track down their inhalers — no doubt in the last jacket or set of trousers they were wearing. It also lets users map out nearby areas to avoid lest it trigger an attack. If users are about to cross into those areas, it triggers a warning on their smartphones. Cueto also made the YouTube video embedded above.

He also redesigned an inhaler that’s flatter and easier to store and carry around. It includes a mouthpiece within a sleeve so it doesn’t need a cap, which can often go missing.

The point of the app is to not only to help people manage their conditions but to make users more engaged in their healthcare by developing a device from a patient’s point of view.

Asked what factors informed the design of the inhaler and app, Cueto responded in an email:

“…The idea really came after reaching out and talking to other people suffering from asthma. I realized that, although everyone’s case of asthma is different, the issues they had were generally the same. I came to the realization that the unknown is what most people are afraid of. Not knowing how many doses are left, not knowing what exactly triggers an attack, not knowing where their inhaler is when in need, etc. With my design, I wanted to make people as comfortable as possible with their disease. I want the user to feel empowered through education, learning about their disease, going back and seeing when and where they used their inhaler and learning why. As far as we know, asthma is incurable, so why not at least be in control of how you treat the symptoms?”

Cueto is one of 12 undergraduate students in the first graduating class of product design majors in Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. The program takes a multidisciplinary design approach focused on product development and commercialization, according to a statement from the university. The inhaler represents the culmination of his degree and will be part of a senior show highlighting his design along with designs from his 11 classmates.