MySpira is a new application for children suffering from asthma who, through gamification and augmented reality, teaches the correct inhalation technique.
The app, for children aged 6 to 13 years, was developed by the British digital agency Orbital Media in collaboration with the University of Suffolk through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership. It was partly funded by Innovate UK and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
According to Asthma UK, about 1.1 million children and 4.3 million adults are currently receiving treatment for this condition in the UK, and every 10 seconds one person has a potentially fatal asthma attack.
A good inhaler technique significantly reduces the risk of having an asthma attack. The most common errors include the inadequate shaking of canister before inhalation, inhaling too fast or too slowly and not using it at the right angle (must be at 90°).
The MySpira application provides educational information on asthma care by introducing characters and tactile interactions, combined in a 20-minute long experience, to keep children engaged. It aims to help them distinguish between different types of inhalers and to learn about asthma triggers, among other things.
The team behind the app carried out a pilot study to evaluate its efficacy among school children aged between 6 to 13 and identify whether it could improve retention of information compared to other methods, such as reading leaflets and watching videos.
Over 95 children from local schools – not suffering from asthma – in Suffolk that participated in the study were randomised in three groups, leaflet, video and MySpira, and were also stratified in two age groups – from six to nine and 10 to 13.
Each of them had to complete a questionnaire before going through the material and after doing so, with the content presented being sourced from the NHS, Asthma UK and other online resources.
The team said findings suggested that the children could overall retain information 26% better by using the app compared to videos, and 70% better compared to leaflets.
The plan now is to evaluate the efficacy of the app in enhancing patient outcomes by helping to improve inhaler technique.