The Digital Asthma Patient: The History and Future of Inhaler Based Health Monitoring Devices

J Aerosol Med Pulm Drug Deliv. 2016 Jun;29(3):219-32. doi: 10.1089/jamp.2015.1267. Epub 2016 Feb 26.


The wave of digital health is continuously growing and promises to transform healthcare and optimize the patients' experience. Asthma is in the center of these digital developments, as it is a chronic disease that requires the continuous attention of both health care professionals and patients themselves. The accurate and timely assessment of the state of asthma is the fundamental basis of digital health approaches and is also the most significant factor toward the preventive and efficient management of the disease. Furthermore, the necessity of inhaled medication offers a basic platform upon which modern technologies can be integrated, namely the inhaler device itself. Inhaler-based monitoring devices were introduced in the beginning of the 1980s and have been evolving but mainly for the assessment of medication adherence. As technology progresses and novel sensing components are becoming available, the enhancement of inhalers with a wider range of monitoring capabilities holds the promise to further support and optimize asthma self-management. The current article aims to take a step for the mapping of this territory and start the discussion among healthcare professionals and engineers for the identification and the development of technologies that can offer personalized asthma self-management with clinical significance. In this direction, a technical review of inhaler based monitoring devices is presented, together with an overview of their use in clinical research. The aggregated results are then summarized and discussed for the identification of key drivers that can lead the future of inhalers.

Keywords: asthma; digital patient; health monitoring devices; inhaler devices; mobile health; patient models; self-management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Diffusion of Innovation
  • Drug Delivery Systems / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Design
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Medication Adherence
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Self Care / instrumentation
  • Telemedicine / instrumentation*
  • Telemetry / instrumentation*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents