For patients with chronic breathing conditions — such as asthma — an inhaler literally can be a lifesaver. The devices are small, portable, and provide nearly instant relief through a dose of medication. But they are not without their limitations. How well did the patient use the inhaler, which can impact how much medication reached the lungs? Is the patient using the device too often or not often enough? These are the types of questions that a connected device is designed to answer.

The ProAir Digihaler from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is the first FDA-cleared digital inhaler. It has built-in sensors that provide patients and healthcare professionals additional information about how the inhaler is used. For example, it tracks when a dose of the medication was taken. A flow sensor measures the inhalation pressure, and thus can determine whether the inhalation of the medication was good or bad. This can provide valuable feedback to both the patients and their physicians as to whether or not the device is being used properly.

The device relies on a smartphone app to store and forward the data. It uses a Bluetooth connection, and a QR code on the device makes it simple for patients to pair it with their phone. The QR code uniquely identifies the individual inhaler, which can be used to track how many doses have been used and other information. Eventually, Teva developers hope to use this data to predict outcomes and help manage risks for individual patients.

Digital technology is making standard treatments smarter and more useful, and this digital inhaler is a good example.