Using an inhaler for asthma might seem straightforward; press the button to deliver the medicine and breathe in, right? Well, not really. Proper inhaler technique is more complicated than it appears. Patients under duress from an asthma attack often fumble during the process, limiting the medication’s effects. A new study suggests that integrated smart inhaler technology could minimize technique variations and improve outcomes for asthma patients ages ten and older.

The Centers for Disease Control provide instructions on their website describing a 10-step process that includes shaking, a deep preliminary breath, proper holding technique, and correct inhaling technique. A smart inhaler uses Bluetooth technology to identify when and how patients use their inhalers. Some smart devices also feature a corresponding mobile app, which helps train users in proper technique so the medicine flows freely out of the device, and the appropriate amount reaches the lungs.

A study was conducted by researchers from Beni-Suef University in Egypt, and Clement Clarke International, a UK based manufacturer of innovative medical instrumentation, including the Clip-Tone smart inhaler device. The team tracked the progress of 200 patients who used varying models of the device, including a control group that did not use the device but received verbal technique instructions. Clip-Tone clips onto the inhaler; it provides real-time feedback via the app, and some models also make a whistling sound during inhaler usage.

The study results were presented at the European Respiratory Society Congress 2020. They show that patients who used Clip-Tone devices with a whistle tone consistently inhaled for the proper amount of time. The study also demonstrates that these users adhered to proper technique with fewer variations than the control group or the group that used a Clip-Tone device without a whistle tone or smartphone app.

The study suggests that smart inhalers like the Clip-Tone could make it easier for patients to get the medicine they need when they need it. As inhaler technique can be challenging to assess remotely, these devices could also help healthcare providers address technique issues during remote appointments. Devices with a mobile app may also provide an accurate monitoring system for both providers and patients.