Gecko Health Delivers Asthma Medication for Kids with Double Dose of Smart and Fun
As the delivery of health care becomes more digitized, it’s no surprise that medical devices that historically had no electronic components are now available with digital capabilities. An attachment to an inhaler, for example, brings the ability to track doses. But the challenge for any medication continues to be getting patients, particularly children, to use these products when they’re supposed to and just as they’re prescribed. One medical device developer is overcoming that problem by bringing games into the delivery of health care.
Health IT startup Gecko Health got into gamified smart inhalers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The company’s first product, aimed at kids, was a souped-up device that made taking asthma medication fun. Affixed to a conventional inhaler, the Gecko Health product’s LED lights light up when it’s time to use the inhaler. The Bluetooth-enabled device sends data of how much medication a child takes, information that can be viewed by a parent, caregiver, or doctor.
The concept of using bright lights to prompt a child to pick up the inhaler and use it is simple enough. But Gecko Health also wanted to make the entire process fun for kids. Data from each dose synchs with an app, which translates the medication dosages into points that kids can accumulate, MIT News explains. Points for good behaviors can earn badges. And this app is smart. If the inhaler is used more often than usual, the app asks if it was due to weather, increased pollen, or pet dander. That helps the child engage with their medication regimen, and if necessary, make any adjustments to how and when they use their inhalers.
Gecko Health’s approach of turning asthma medication dosing into a fun activity caught the eye of a big pharmaceutical company. Teva Pharmaceuticals acquired Gecko Health in 2015, adding the startup’s smart inhaler to its portfolio of medical products. Now, with the resources of a larger company, Gecko Health’s team is working on adding even more capabilities to its inhaler technology, which would make its device even smarter. Yechiel Engelhard, Gecko Health’s co-founder and CEO, tells MIT News that by adding analysis of pollution and weather conditions, combined with new predictive analytics capabilities in the device, the technology could predict for patients – and also notify them – when poor air conditions mean that they should stay at home. Those new capabilities should help kids breathe a little easier, and also have some fun along the way.
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