Dr. Amy Alman works with interdisciplinary team to develop app for teens with asthma

| COPH Office of Research, Departments, EPI-BIO, Monday Letter, Our Research, PRC

USF College of Public Health’s Dr. Amy Alman completed the trial portion and is now in the data analysis phase of an app that she and fellow USF researchers have developed as a tool for teens with asthma.

Dr. Amy Alman (center) with the Asthma App Team (Photo by Megan DiTizio).

Dr. Amy Alman and her Asthma App Team. (Front row, from left): Tali Schneider, Amy Alman, and Bria Thomas. (Back row, from left): Laura Baum, Paul Rosen, Wei Wang, James Lindenberger, Nafila Shaikh, and Sanjari Sanghani.

Alman, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, said the app is a way for adolescents and teens who are transitioning from their parents being primarily responsible for their asthma management to being responsible themselves.

“It is intended to provide a way for the teens to be more aware of their symptoms and triggers so that they use their medicine more appropriately and increase awareness of their condition, improve their management and ultimately have better outcomes in terms of fewer emergency room visits and situations where they require immediate medical attention,” Alman said.

Alman received pilot funding through the COPH’s Interdisciplinary Team Award to develop and complete a pilot trial for the app.

Building on formative studies by the team from 2012, a USF Health IS team led by Matthew Warner and Ivan Vasquez coded and developed the app. After the app was created, Alman and her team recruited 20 participants, ages 12-17 years old, for a three-month trial of the app.  At the end of the trial, the team was able to combine many data points per participant, including clinical data, app usage statistics, and baseline and follow-up survey and interview responses.

During the trial, participants would input their peak flows and any symptoms they were having into the app. The app would then provide information, including any medicine they needed to take, based on their individualized asthma action plan.  The app would also send reminders for when they should log their information into the app.

“It basically takes the paper form of the asthma action plan and puts it into an app so that they have it on their phone and can use it at any time,” Alman said.

Screen shots from the asthma app (Photos courtesy of Matthew Warner).

Screen shots from the asthma app (Photos courtesy of Matthew Warner).

Alman doesn’t believe that they will see much difference in the patients’ clinical outcomes in this short trial period, but they will be seeking funding to further the development of the app and to perform a larger trial with a longer follow-up period.

“The focus of the next phase of development is to make the app more fun to use so that the teens would want to use it for longer periods of time,” said Alman. “We then would follow-up for longer periods of time so that we can try to detect any difference in the clinical outcomes compared to patients not using the app.”

Long-term goals for researchers would be to eventually see this app broadly available.

“What I would really like to see is that is goes beyond USF, so that it’s not just an USF product that only works inside our system, but something that a teenager can download anywhere,” Alman said.

Alman said that this project was different than what she usually works on because it involved so many different disciplines.

“It is very interdisciplinary; it is not just across health but into engineering and computer science as well. We are bringing on new team members to work with us in the next phase and are working hard to develop a product that will have lasting impact!” she said.

 

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health