Around 1,000 children with asthma are being treated at the Medisch Spectrum Twente. Young asthma patients visit the hospital for their check-ups three times a year on average. But that is a thing of the past at MST. Boony Thio, who is a paediatric pulmonologist at MST: “We can now offer a good quality of care remotely thanks to technology.”
Paediatric pulmonologist Boony Thio has been carrying out scientific research into children with asthma for a long time. “Sometimes I hit a wall. I had the sense that care could be improved, with fewer appointments at the outpatient clinic as result. Technology makes it possible to offer a good quality of care remotely. Barriers have been broken down with the aid of technology.”
Asthma is a challenging illness to diagnose and to keep monitoring. “Asthma comes in spurts. That makes it difficult for us to analyse a patient at an annual check-up. Previously, we would be informed at check-ups that ‘it is going well now, but two months ago she coughed for nights on end’. That is precisely the moment we want to be able to assess children. We can monitor patients remotely with the aid of technology and gain an insight into how they are really doing.”
To be able to treat patients effectively, doctors want to observe children when they are suffering from asthma. Boony Thio therefore developed an app in collaboration with students from the Technical Medicine bachelor’s programme at the University of Twente. Parents can simply submit a video of their child when they are suffering asthma symptoms via this app. “Our clinic receives notification as soon as a video is submitted. The video is analysed and parents immediately receive advice digitally as to what they can do help their child. In a few cases, we have to arrange for a child to attend the outpatient clinic to treat them quickly.”
Parents also receive an instruction booklet, a peak flow meter, a spirometer and a heart rate monitor to take home. These devices are connected to the app. All results can be followed in real-time via the app and are thus available to both parents and doctors at MST. The objective: to provide parents with advice digitally and quickly, to provide a real-time insight into how the patient is doing, and to be able to assist the patient quickly in their own environment.
The technology makes it possible to improve patient care considerably. But parents also have an important role to play. “With remote care, it is very important for patients to comply with therapy. Asthma patients require medication daily to prevent asthma attacks. When the child is doing well, parents often think they can ‘do without medication for a while’. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can monitor our patients’ use of medication with the aid of technology and speak to parents about compliance with treatment if necessary. The measurements and monitoring of the use of medication provides us with a great deal of valuable information.”
Keeping children stable, that is Boony Thio’s most important goal. “We started with scientific research and tests over five years ago. We have been using the app and measuring devices for a year and a half. With great success! We have seen the number of admissions reduce now that fewer hospital check-ups are needed because we can provide care remotely. It is a win-win-win situation: parents are satisfied and are less likely to become concerned, children are assisted quickly in their own environment, and most importantly: our asthma patients are more stable.”