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Stowmarket company develops app to improve children's asthma

Pioneering augmented reality asthma training app, developed by Stowmarket-based Orbital Media, could substantially improve inhaler technique and save lives

The likelihood of serious or fatal asthma attacks occurring in children could be reduced thanks to a revolutionary new app, which improves the training of correct inhaler technique, using a combination of augmented reality and game play. MySpira is the world’s first metered dose inhaler training app to utilise the new augmented reality functionality, released by Google (AR Core) and Apple (AR Kit).

This innovative app has been developed by Orbital Media in Stowmarket, Suffolk, in collaboration with University of Suffolk via a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, part funded by Innovate UK and the Arts & Humanities Research Council. The university provided consultancy, research, development support and a graduate work placement. The project has also been supported by healthcare experts, including Dr. Simon Rudland and asthma nurse, Karyn McBride, both of StowHealth Practice in Stowmarket. 

In a recent study[i] of 96 children aged 6 - 13, a steady increase of information recall was observed with the MySpira app, over traditional asthma / inhaler education methods, such as leaflets and videos. Specifically, MySpira demonstrated an overall score that was 26% better than videos and 70% better than leaflets.  

Various studies have shown that up to 93% of asthma sufferers use their inhalers incorrectly, which can result in less than 5% of the medicine reaching where it’s needed in the lungs.[ii] Where proper inhaler training programmes have been put in place, emergency admissions have been reduced by 50% and asthma deaths by 75%[iii]. In fact, the National Review of Asthma Deaths in 2014 concluded that two thirds of asthma deaths would be preventable by better management[iv].

Supplementing existing asthma care educational materials, MySpira introduces likable characters and tactile interactions, to engage children suffering with asthma. Throughout the enjoyable 20 minute experience, the child is taught about asthma keywords, triggers, different types of inhalers, how to prepare the inhaler and spacer, and how to inhale the medicine correctly.

Dr. Simon Rudland, Partner at Stowhealth and medical advisor to MySpira comments, “Asthma can be a life-threatening condition but managing it properly can help keep sufferers symptom free. It is important that children are taught from a young age so they can take control of their asthma. 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. We are looking at integrating this app into our existing asthma support services in the future.”

Peter Brady, CEO of Orbital Media, comments, “Asthma affects 5.4 million people in the UK, 1.1 million of whom are children, and costs the NHS £1.1 bn per annum. 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. It’s hugely exciting for Orbital Media to be at the forefront of this technology, which could have a huge impact in reducing asthma attacks in children, as well as saving the NHS millions of pounds. We’d also like to thank the children of our local schools, who have supported us by trialling the app.”

The University’s partnership with Orbital Media is the University’s first Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) which was facilitated by the Knowledge Transfer Network's KT Adviser, Jan Stringer.

Professor Mohamed Abdel-Maguid, Dean of the School of Science, Technology and Engineering, said, “We were excited about challenge that Orbital Media brought to us. The instructions on how to use an inhaler correctly for asthmatic children doesn’t appear to be that complex yet millions of children across the globe lose quality of life as a consequence of incorrect use of inhalers.  Working with Orbital Media, our teams brought together gaming technology with augmented reality and psychology to produce MySpira, a small innovation that can potentially transform the lives of millions of children.  This is the value we want to create and the impact we strive to make through our research. We look forward to more KTP projects in the future.”

Director of Business Engagement and Entrepreneurship at the University of Suffolk, Stefanie Thorne, added “Brokering knowledge transfer partnerships (KTP), and projects between SMEs and our academic expertise at the University of Suffolk, is what the business engagement team within the Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre (IWIC) is here to do. Orbital Media has been a pleasure to work with and we are all extremely proud of the impact the product is having.”

MySpira is available for asthma patients, schools, pharmacists, GP surgeries and hospitals for download onto smartphone or tablet devices, which support either Apple ARKit or Google ARCore. It is recommended that the MySpira app is used to instil a good understanding of asthma and how to correctly use a metered dose inhaler. Refresh training should take place when required or annually.

MySpira is available to download from the App Store and Google Play at an introductory price of 99p

ORBITAL MEDIA is one of the UK’s most innovative digital agencies, working with many of the world’s biggest global companies. Led by CEO Peter Brady and COO Hayden Allen-Vercoe, it uses the latest technology and marketing strategies to connect brands with consumers. Orbital also specialises in developing pioneering innovations that utilise artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality and gamification. Founded in 2003, the company has offices based in London, Suffolk and Somerset.  You can find out more at: www.orbitalmedia.com.

DR. SIMON RUDLAND is a GP with over 20 years of clinical experience. He is a lead partner at Stowhealth and Fellow of the Royal College of GPs and an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University Of East Anglia. He has conducted original clinical research and published in major peer review publications such as the British Medical Journal. Simon is passionate about enhancing patient’s ability to self-manage their conditions through the use of digital technology.

KARYN MCBRIDE is a Nurse Practitioner with 16 years clinical experience, 8 of those in general practice. She has a special interest in Respiratory care and is committed to improving patient outcomes especially in relation to long term medical conditions. She recognises the importance of engaging patients’ in their own care and empowering them to take control of their conditions through newly available technologies. In particular she feels passionate about young children and adolescents being given the chance to be independent and make decisions about their health, helping them to take that through to adulthood.

LOCAL SCHOOLS. Children from the following schools supported MySpira by trialling the app:

  • Crawfords C of E Primary School

  • Cedars Park Primary School

  • Horringer Court Middle School

  • Chilton Community Primary School

  • Creative Computing Club

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships aim to help businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base.  They are funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy. The Knowledge Transfer Network delivers KTP for Innovate UK. For more information see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/knowledge-transfer-partnerships-what-they-are-and-how-to-apply

(AHRC) The Arts & Humanities Research Council is one of a number of sponsors of the KTP scheme and will support or co-sponsor projects that demonstrate and utilise knowledge, skills or technologies arising from all areas of arts and humanities research and which, broadly defined, focus on the creative economy.

For more information see  https://ahrc.ukri.org/innovation/knowledgeexchange/ktp/

 

ASTHMA FACTS AND SOURCES

Charlton I, White P, Chapter 2.4 in Jones R, Britten N, Culpepper L, Gass DA, Grol R, Mant D, et al. (eds), Oxford Textbook of Primary Medical Care, vol. Vol. 2: clinical management. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

  • Asthma costs NHS £1.1 bn per annum

https://www.asthma.org.uk/about/media/news/asthma-uk-study-1.1bn/

Sue Wilcock