Article by Ms Amanda Yeap
TO BETTER manage asthma, the Perak Chest Society is encouraging patients to use a smartphone app called AsthmaMD.
Society president Dr Leong Oon Keong, who strongly supports the use of the free app created by medical doctor and researcher Dr Sam Pejham, said the app helps patients to track and control their condition through an asthma action plan.
“It is best for each patient to own a peak flow meter first to go with this app,” he said.
“A patient should blow into the instrument at least twice a day — upon waking up and before going to sleep — then jot down the results in the app’s journal to monitor their condition.
To the uninitiated, a peak flow meter is a calibrated instrument used to measure lung capacity and monitor breathing disorders. It is commonly used among asthma patients.
Dr Leong said the app will inform the user whether their condition is critical or under control, depending on the results of their meter reading.
“When the reading shows critical, the app will then launch an asthma action plan telling a patient what they should do to get it under control again.
“Now this is the important part of the app usage — you must confirm with your doctor the type of relievers you can take for this action plan beforehand so that you are taking the correct dosage of medicine.
“About 30 minutes after taking the first round of medication, the app will ask, ‘How are you?’
“If you feel better, the plan will stop. If not, the next step of the action plan will continue. Each round of medication must be keyed in by your doctor from the beginning,” he said.
Dr Leong points out that the one feature that makes this app essential for asthma patients is that once the user’s asthma activity is diligently charted every day, it can be easily shared with their doctor.
“The app provides a graphic chart of an asthma journal, which can be emailed to a doctor so they can easily learn of a patient’s progress.
“This saves the patient so much time, as they don’t have to make the physical trip to the clinic to find out their progress.
“If all is well, the doctor may extend the appointment date. But if things deteriorate, the patient can come in earlier to see the doctor instead of having to wait until the next appointment,” he said.
The app’s other features include recording data of asthma symptoms experienced (coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, waking at night due to asthma, the ability to do some but not all usual activities), asthma triggers (dust, fumes, exercise, pollution, pollen, strong odours, viral illness) as well as reminders so that patients do not forget to take their medication even though their condition is well managed.
Being a consultant chest physician himself, Dr Leong said the society has long been searching for ways to help patients with respiratory complications self-monitor their conditions at home.
“We’ve only managed to find this app to help asthma patients.
“Although this app has been in existence since 2010, and has been written about in international publications, I believe a lot of doctors here are not aware of this useful tool.
“As doctors, we can’t do everything ourselves for the sake of our patients, so if there’s anything free and beneficial to patients, we must share it,” he said.
Dr Leong, who believes that the app can pave the way to the age of telemonitoring diseases at home in Malaysia, said the society will be conducting formal lessons soon to educate nurses and counsellors on how to effectively use the app.
“This can then be passed on to patients so they know what to do after being discharged, while maintaining direct communication with their doctors by sending them the charts from this app.
“I must stress that it is vital for patients to go back to their doctors to confirm their asthma action plan, so that they know the dosage of medicine they should take every day to control their symptoms,” he said.
For more information, go to www.pcs.org.my or www.asthmamd.org.