A new study has found that smart inhalers can have a major effect on individual health and lay the groundwork for community-level improvements for asthma patients.

Researchers tracked the effectiveness of a small device that can be attached to a rescue inhaler to automatically record information about when and where patients use their medication. Those usage data can then be cross-referenced with environmental data to help patients better understand the situations that seem to exacerbate their condition.

The study details how a citywide collaboration in Louisville, Kentucky, affected residents with asthma. After 12 months, the overall patient group saw a 78% reduction in rescue inhaler use, and a 48% increase in symptom-free days.

Meredith Barrett, PhD, vice president of research at Propeller Health, the makers of the smart device, told Healthcare Analytics News™ that the sensor provides a level of accuracy in usage data that wasn’t possible before the digital health revolution. Previously, user-reported data were kept in paper or web-based diaries.