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AI tool to help fight respiratory conditions

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Global pharma firm Chiesi and French AI startup Hephaï have joined forces to develop a digital solution to support improved inhaler use.

The platform is designed for patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It aims to help them better control their condition.

The app will be available on Apple and Android in 2022.

Both asthma and COPD are frequently treated with medication taken via inhalers; patients have to make regular use of inhalers in order to take their medication correctly.

Errors in inhaler use may occur if the patient struggles to use it, or if they are not yet accustomed to it.

Research shows that 30-40 per cent of patients with COPD do not use their inhalers correctly.

This can have a direct impact on how they take the medication, reducing its benefits.

Specialist pulmonologists and GPs do not always have the time to monitor inhaler use in patients or offer full instructions on comprehensive use.

Also, patients are not always given thorough guidance when they collect their inhaler from a pharmacy.

As a result, many are unaware of the correct techniques to use their inhaler effectively, as they lack professional training or advice, or they may simply forget what they have been told.

Chiesi and Hephaï have come together to work on an AI virtual coaching programme.

It will provide patients with a free digital education tool, which comes with a recommendation from the prescribing doctor or pharmacist.

The tool is a multi-device application which can be installed on tablets, smartphones and PCs.

Patients record themselves using the inhaler, the app analyses the movements and sounds they make in real time, and then explains any errors they may have made. It will also provide suggestions on how to improve their technique.

Hephaï’s digital educational platform makes it possible to assess whether the inhaler medication has been taken correctly. If there are problems, the tool can establish a corrective process and/or inform the patient’s doctor.

Valéry Trosini-Desert, pulmonologist at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital (Paris, France) and founder of Hephaï, said: “Following more than ten years of research into inhaled medications prescribed for asthma and COPD, it became clear that patients living with these respiratory conditions would benefit from a virtual coach to help them understand and learn the best practices for inhaler use. Incorrect usage presents a real risk to successful treatment of respiratory conditions.

“We are excited to be working with Chiesi, it will allow us to provide a reliable and user-friendly education tool for patients, GPs and pharmacists.”

Dr. Marie-Ange Peretti, medical director at Chiesi Franc, said: “Chiesi was already well aware of the need for asthma and COPD patients to be able to use their inhalers effectively, this partnership is further evidence of our commitment to respiratory medicine, a key area for us.”

Some 299 million people worldwide live with asthma or COPD.

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