GPS-equipped inhalers track the 'no-go' places for asthmatics
How about an iPhone app that tells you where NOT to go if you suffer from asthma? An entrepreneur and scientist David Van Sickle from the University of Wisconsin-Madison is using the GPS technology on medical inhalers to track when the drug dispensers are being used by his asthmatic guinea pig experimenters. Van Sickle hopes thousands of people would use the GPS-equipped inhalers to collect accurate stats that can be utilized to prevent susceptible individuals from entering areas where asthma attacks are most common.
An enterprising epidemiologist has combined GPS technology with a medical inhaler in an effort to better understand the triggers for asthma.
David Van Sickle of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has recruited four asthmatic undergraduates to carry around inhalers equipped to relay location data when they were being used, via the Global Positioning System satellite network.
Van Sickle reports he has successfully demonstrated the concept and has received funding for a pilot program now under way in the city of Madison.
So far 19 volunteers have signed up to participate, with slots for another 31 available.
Advances in GPS technology solved what once would have been the program's main technical hurdle - hefty receivers.
Tracking devices have become so small they can be attached onto a bird's leg.
Eventually, Van Sickle, who previously worked for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, would like to have thousands of people using the GPS-equipped inhalers so that accurate statistics can be complied about when and where asthma strikes.
"Asthma is unique in that people carry their inhalers around with them and use them at the time and place when they are having symptoms," says Van Sickler.
While at the CDC, Van Sickle tried to track asthma outbreaks by getting hospital emergency room statistics about asthma treatments, but the key piece of information - figuring out where the attacks began - remained a mystery.
The goal of the Madison project is to learn something about asthma exposures, but it also is helping individuals better understand what triggers their own symptoms.