Health Information Technologies for Chronic Pulmonary Diseases

Health information technologies (HITs), including phone and web apps, social media platforms, and sensors, are becoming common in asthma and COPD, two different diseases that share some similarities in that they are chronic pulmonary diseases that must be managed by patients and providers, but cannot be cured. Elissa Weitzman and I reviewed some of the ways in which HITs can be helpful to patients, healthcare providers, and researchers although many strategies are still in their early stages. First, apps are being developed to help patients monitor their lung function, exposures, and medication use, sometimes in combination with sensors and in some cases by simply recording patient information and displaying helpful reports. Second, data collected via apps may be passed to healthcare providers to help them better care for patients and decrease healthcare costs by having summaries of detailed patient-specific data. Third, HITs have enabled the formation of patient communities, some of which are large and very active. While there are no large, dedicated patient communities for asthma and COPD yet, some notable ones have been formed in collaboration with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and the COPD Foundation. Fourth, HITs may offer novel ways to reduce asthma disparities by increasing health literacy and supporting patients of all backgrounds, assuming that they are designed with help from, and are tested by, diverse patients. Finally, HITs are improving our ability to conduct research studies with rich phenotype information, specifically environmental exposure, symptoms, and medication use, which will yield advances in asthma and COPD patient care and generate hypotheses for experimental studies. More than ever before, the success of HITs depends on patients who are “information altruists” willing to engage with caregivers, investigators and other stakeholders to understand their diseases and seek cures via the collection of large amounts of data. Researchers should in turn safely share data provided by patients with the scientific community to maximize our collective ability to find insights that help patients.

 

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