KTP between Orbital Media and University of Suffolk to develop pioneering inhaler training app, My Spira, shortlisted for Times Higher Education Award

The Impact


The likelihood of serious or fatal asthma attacks occurring in children could be reduced thanks to a revolutionary new app, which improves the training of correct inhaler technique, using a combination of augmented reality and game play. MySpira is the world’s first metered dose inhaler training app to utilise the new augmented reality functionality, released by Google (AR Core) and Apple (AR Kit).

This innovative app has been developed by Orbital Media in Suffolk, in collaboration with University of Suffolk via a Knowledge Transfer Partnership(KTP), part funded by Innovate UK and the Arts & Humanities Research Council. and facilitated by Knowledge Transfer Adviser Jan Stringer. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships help facilitate innovation by creating a three way collaboration between a company, a university and a talented graduate. The programme has been running for more than 40 years and over that time has helped over 12,000 companies – in practically every sector of the UK economy – innovate for growth. Here, augmented reality technology has been developed, via a KTP, to help improve effective use of inhalers for asthma sufferers.

Various studies have shown that up to 93% of asthma sufferers use their inhalers incorrectly, which can result in less than 5% of the medicine reaching where it is needed in the lungs. Where proper inhaler training programmes have been put in place, emergency admissions have been reduced by 50% and asthma deaths by 75%. In fact, the National Review of Asthma Deaths in 2014 concluded that two thirds of asthma deaths would be preventable by better management.

In a recent study of 96 children aged 6 – 13, a steady increase of information recall was observed with the MySpira app, over traditional asthma / inhaler education methods, such as leaflets and videos. Supplementing existing asthma care educational materials, MySpira introduces likable characters and tactile interactions, to engage children suffering with asthma. Throughout the enjoyable 20 minute experience, the child is taught about asthma keywords, triggers, different types of inhalers, how to prepare the inhaler and spacer, and how to inhale the medicine correctly.

Karyn McBride, asthma nurse and medical advisor to MySpira comments, “A good inhaler technique significantly cuts the risk of having an asthma attack – if your technique isn’t correct, you might not be getting the full dose of medicine prescribed. Common mistakes I see include inadequate shaking of canister before inhalation, inhaling too fast or too slowly and not using it at the right angle. I’ve even seen somebody leave the cap on! There is a real need for better – and modernised – education, so patients, including children, can take control of their asthma.”

Dr. Simon Rudland, Partner at Stowhealth and medical advisor to MySpira comments, “Asthma can be a life-threatening condition but managing it properly can help keep sufferers symptom free. It is important that children are taught from a young age so they can take control of their asthma. The initial results of this research are extremely promising, improving both technique and compliance. Not only does this lead to better health long-term, but if adopted nationwide, could dramatically reduce the number of emergency cases, resulting in fewer hospitalisations. We are looking at integrating this app into our existing asthma support services in the future.”

Peter Brady, CEO of Orbital Media, comments, “Asthma affects 5.4 million people in the UK, 1.1 million of whom are children, and costs the NHS £1.1 bn per annum. Our vision was to develop an application to improve educational content, which would ultimately cut the number of preventable child deaths. In addition, MySpira helps children gain confidence about self-care; engaging and teaching them how to manage asthma independently. It puts them back in control of their condition and is something they will take with them into adulthood. It’s hugely exciting for Orbital Media to be at the forefront of this technology, which could have a huge impact in reducing asthma attacks in children, as well as saving the NHS millions of pounds. We’d also like to thank the children of our local schools, who have supported us by trialling the app.”

The University’s partnership with Orbital Media is the University’s first Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) which was facilitated by the Knowledge Transfer Network’s KT Adviser, Jan Stringer who added “The My Spira app was born out of an amazing Knowledge Transfer Partnership, which, despite all the partners (University of Suffolk, Orbital Media and the KTP Associate) being new to working collaboratively took the project above and beyond all expectations. It was awarded the top grade of “outstanding” and I am proud to have helped facilitate it!”

MySpira is available for asthma patients, schools, pharmacists, GP surgeries and hospitals for download onto smartphone or tablet devices, which support either Apple ARKit or Google ARCore. It is recommended that the MySpira app is used to instil a good understanding of asthma and how to correctly use a metered dose inhaler. Refresh training should take place when required or annually.

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