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Anthem, Apple to Study How to Improve Asthma Self-management With Everyday Devices


The 2-year study will investigate how devices like the Apple Watch and the iPhone can help patients with asthma better manage their condition.

Anthem and Apple are partnering to better understand how devices like the Apple Watch and the iPhone can help patients with asthma better manage their condition. The study will be conducted virtually by the University of California, Irvine.

Patients from Anthem-affiliated health plans with diagnosed asthma can participate in the 2-year study, which launches in the fall. The primary goal of the study is to evaluate clinical changes in outcomes that occur as a result of using digital tools to self-manage asthma. The researchers are also endeavoring to understand if the data collected by devices like iPhones and Apple Watches can be used to predict asthma exacerbation.

“As part of our mission of improving people’s lives, we are making it easier for consumers to proactively manage their health through our digital-first approach to delivering healthcare solutions and services,” Rajeev Ronanki, chief digital officer at Anthem, Inc, said in a statement. “Millions of Americans are struggling with their asthma condition each day and we’re thrilled to collaborate with UCI, Apple and CareEvolution on studying new solutions.”

Nearly 25 million Americans have asthma, and asthma attacks account for nearly 1.8 million emergency department visits every year in the United States.

Eligible participants who enroll in the Digital Asthma Study will receive a Beddit Sleep Monitor and an Apple Watch. The active group in the study will have access to an asthma tool that includes daily symptom and trigger tracking. Participants will also receive education materials and prescription refill resources.

“Personalized medicine and improving the health of populations are based on similar principles. The human body contains critical information—data—necessary to diagnose and treat our patients,” said Steve Goldstein, MD, PhD, MA, vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of California, Irvine. “Through innovation and emerging technologies, we are able to harness that data, and by coupling it with an individual’s environment and experiences, chart pathways to lifelong health and well-being.”

This is one of a number of partnerships Apple has entered into to understand the impact the Apple Watch can have on health and wellness. Researchers at the University of Toronto are testing whether the latest Apple Watch and its blood oxygen sensor can collect data to help manage heart failure.

In addition, Apple is working with researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle to understand if heart rate or blood oxygen measurements from the Apple Watch can detect signs of influenza or even coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The study will also utilize the Apple Watch to remind wearers about handwashing and learn how behavioral interventions can prevent the development of viral infections.

The study with the University of Washington will follow participants through the 2020-2021 flu season. Participants will receive Apple Watches and at-home testing kits that can be used to test for a number of conditions, including flu and COVID-19.

“The hope is that physiological signals from the Apple Watch will make it possible to identify people who are falling ill, and get them tested quickly so they can self-isolate and break the chain of transmission of the virus in the community,” explained Jay Shendure, MD, PhD, professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine.

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