Do people fear smart devices for data hacks?

19 October 2018

Cyber crime

Recent research carried out by medical device developer and manufacturer Bespak, has suggested that data security concerns could be delaying a rollout of potentially lifesaving smart inhaler products. These smart inhaler products could be utilised by users and result in the prevention of around 800 asthma deaths a year in the UK alone.  

‘Smart’ or ‘connected’ inhalers are enhanced with the ability to collect and share data about their usage. A number of early players are already on the market and early trials across the globe are indicating that this can be an effective way of improving adherence.

Current smart inhalers enable patients and their healthcare provider to monitor how closely the prescribed treatment plan is being followed. As the sector matures, increased functionality, such as which parameters can be measured, is expected to follow. For example, devices that use acoustic sensors to monitor inhalation technique and provide feedback are already in development.

Michael Earl, Commercial Director at Bespak said, “Data shows that nearly all patients don’t always use their inhalers properly, and nearly two-thirds don’t always take their medication. Clearly there is a need to make inhalers more user-friendly to allow for better disease management. We know that increasing adherence to respiratory medication can more than halve hospital admissions. The cost saving implications and potential patient benefits are huge.”

Bespak has uncovered that 48% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients feel that device connectivity would have the most benefit if it could help in predicting exacerbations. Among professionals in the industry, improved patient engagement (44%) and improved health informatics (34%) are thought to be the areas where the technology can add the most value. 67% of industry participants in the research felt that connectivity would help with compliance of treatment regimes.

However, Bespak’s research revealed that despite 63% of the chronic COPD patients surveyed believing that connectivity would help in preventing the worsening of their respiratory condition, 59% voiced that they would not want a connected device.

So why the apparent disconnect? Further questioning identified that security topped the list of concerns for many patients (59%), suggesting that a fear of data hacking has spread over from other industries.

“Connected inhalers are a relatively new area, and as such, there are still a lot of details to work out around who should own the data, the patient or the pharmaceutical company. Transparent communication about the risks and obligations from both sides will be needed to overcome this,” commented Michael Earl.

Another barrier to large scale uptake of connected inhalers could be the cost. When asked by Bespak, industry participants were split about who should bear the added cost of connected devices, with 34% for health insurers, 23% for the healthcare provider and 22% for the pharmaceutical company. Adding expensive electronic components to a device that is otherwise low cost will require there to be clear long-term benefits that offset the upfront investment for whoever is paying.

“We are all excited at the potential of smart inhalers, and the benefits they could bring to millions of patients globally,” concluded Michael Earl. “But we need to ensure that a truly patient-centric approach is taken to these new developments, so that any concerns or barriers to adoption are anticipated and addressed.”

Published by on October 15, 2018


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