Can telehealth improve the quality of life of asthma patients?
Asthma is estimated to affect over 339 million people worldwide. With symptoms that include chest tightness, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, it isn’t surprising that people with asthma report having a reduced quality of life (QoL). Asthma varies in severity between individuals and is typically managed with medication, requiring patients to have access to healthcare providers.
Delivering care from a distance
Telehealth provides a way for healthcare to be delivered from a distance and has the potential to improve access to healthcare for people globally. Telehealth exists in many forms, including videoconferences, websites, and apps. Interactive websites and apps can be used to monitor symptoms and medication use and to send clinical information to health professionals. These interactive interventions can provide strategies and feedback to patients to better manage their asthma. Some even alert specialists to follow up with patients to adjust medications.
A study published in Value in Health by PCHSS investigator Dr Centaine Snoswell and colleagues aimed to understand whether the QoL of asthma patients improved by using these interactive telehealth interventions.
In their publication, A systematic review and meta-analysis of change in health-related quality of life for interactive telehealth interventions for patients with asthma, the researchers evaluated studies from 10 countries that looked at how telehealth was used by asthma patients
Telehealth can improve patient and carer quality of life
They found that there was an improvement in QoL for those who used interactive telehealth interventions. There were also reported improvements in QoL of caregivers of young people with asthma.
The researchers write:
“Asthma poses a significant societal and economic burden worldwide…Telehealth can be used to increase patient knowledge about a health condition or disease, enhance patient-provider communication, or improve communication and coordination across multidisciplinary care teams (in different locations) thereby improving quality of care delivery.”
Equity of access is still an issue
Whilst it is encouraging that there are improved QoL outcomes in asthma patients who use telehealth interventions, the authors acknowledge that telehealth may not be available to people living in low-income countries. Nonetheless, their study highlights the potential of telehealth technologies to improve the QoL of many people suffering from asthma around the world.