Digital Health Tool Improves Health Outcomes for Patients with COPD


The tool, which works by attaching a small sensor to the patient’s inhaler, collects data on medication use and sends medication reminders, progress reports, and disease insights to the patient’s smartphone or hub.

Health outcomes improved significantly when primary care physicians encouraged patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to use an electronic medication monitor to manage their disease, according to new research published in JMIR Formative Research.1

The study included 190 patients with COPD at Louisville’s JenCare Senior Medical Center. These participants were given access to the Propeller Health digital health tool, which works by attaching a small sensor to a patient’s existing inhaler. Collected from this device is data on medication use and medication reminders, progress reports, and disease insights. The data are sent to the patient’s smartphone or hub, and reports are sent to their doctor.1

Patients were monitored over the course of 12 months. At 3, 6, and 12 months, patients demonstrated significant reductions in daily rescue medication use and nighttime rescue medication use, in addition to an increase in days without symptoms that require rescue use.

Over the course of 12 months, daily use of rescue medication decreased by 59%, and days without symptoms that required rescue use increased by 36%.1

Compared to previous studies, which have shown that digital health engagement may fall off after 3 months, this study demonstrated an 81% retention rate, and 90% engagement in patients at 6 months. These findings suggest that digital health tools are particularly effective at keeping patients engaged long-term when a clinical care team is involved.

The participants average 208 minutes yearly of face-to-face time with their primary care doctors, more than 10 times the national average, a level of interaction that may have enhanced patient compliance and outcomes in this study.

COPD describes progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory asthma. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and is predicted to become the number 3 cause of death globally by 2030. The disease is associated with progressive loss of lung function, and has significant impacts on patients’ physical and mental well-being, according to the COPD foundation.2

The digital health program studied was able to minimize the burden on providers and maximize patient engagement in their own care, leading to significantly better outcomes and a stronger alliance between patient and provider.1


  • COPD Outcomes Improved Significantly When Patients and Doctors Used a Digital Health Tool, Propeller Health Study Finds [press release]. Business Wire website. Madison, WI. Published November 25, 2019. Accessed November 26, 2019.
  • What is COPD? COPD foundation website. Accessed November 26, 2019.

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