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An Android tablet-based digital mobile health system to support patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been found to improve quality of care and aid self-management at home, according to a study published in the British Journal of General Practice.

A patient trials the tablet-based digital mobile health system
A patient trials the tablet-based digital mobile health system
These are important findings which will help clinicians think about what their patients should be expecting from tele-health and so help design better systems."
- Dr Veronika Williams, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford

The app integrates a daily symptom diary with the technology to monitor clinical parameters, as well as multimedia and educational tools to support the self-monitoring and self-management of COPD.

It has been developed at the University of Oxford by clinical researchers from the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences and engineers from the Department of Engineering Science.

The research is aligned with a project in the NIHR CLAHRC Oxford patient self-management theme, which aims to investigate whether remote support for COPD patients can improve mood.

COPD is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the UK and includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airway disease. It places a significant burden on the health of those living with the condition.

Lionel Tarassenko, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Department of Engineering Science said:

"The emergence of Android tablets and iPads has given us the opportunity to develop apps which are tailored to the needs of patients with long-term conditions, even if they have little or no previous experience of using computers”.

The qualitative interview based study, led by Dr Veronika Williams from the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, aimed to explore COPD patients’ experience of using the system over a six-month period.

Patients reported that it was easy to use and provided reassurance, a sense of continuity of care, and increased awareness of varying symptoms over time. Patients also reported that they were more likely to engage in self-management behaviours such as breathing exercises and taking their medication regularly.

Dr Veronika Williams said:

“Our initial study has shown that these applications can support patients with chronic conditions like COPD to manage their own symptoms from home, which can improve patient wellbeing and reduce the need for hospital admission. These are important findings which will help clinicians think about what their patients should be expecting from tele-health and so help design better systems.”

Professor Andrew Farmer, who is leading a full-scale clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of this tele-health intervention to improve patients’ quality of life, said:

“By supporting self-management, tele-health may lead to sustainable improvements in health.”

The NIHR CLAHRC Oxford project will build on this work with additional data analysis to explore the use of mood screening questionnaires, outcomes for individuals with mood disorders and the impact of different interventions that specifically target such disorders. 

Paper reference: 

Williams V, Price J, Hardinge M, Tarassenko L, Farmer A. Using a mobile health application to support self-management in COPD: a qualitative study. BJGP 2014 64: 624 e392-e400 doi: 10.3399/bjgp14X680473

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