Vitalograph A meter to manage asthma

Mon, Sep 10, 2012, 01:00

NEW INNOVATOR:MORE THAN 470,000 Irish adults and children have asthma. This is the fourth-highest incidence in the world, according to the Asthma Society of Ireland.

Those with asthma need to constantly manage their condition. One of the main ways of doing so is with a peak-flow meter. This measures how hard someone can blow air out of their lungs and is an indicator for how well their treatment is working.

Up to now, it was up to the patient to keep the information recorded in a diary, but a new “smart” meter from respiratory specialists Vitalograph is set to change that.

The asma-I device has been developed at the company’s RD facility in Ennis. What makes it leading edge is that it is the first device of its kind to be bluetooth-enabled. This means the information about patients’ lung function can be automatically captured and transmitted in real time to their healthcare professional.

“This new device is easy to use, it is discreet and comes with built-in alerts,” says Frank Keane, general manager of the RD centre. “Our device is the only product on the market that meets the tight performance standards for use at home.”

The new device, which took about two years and €750,000 to develop, is aimed at two potential markets – the personal user who can buy it for about €300 and the clinical trials market. So far about 40,000 devices have been sold into this sector, where they are being used by big pharma companies conducting asthma-related drug trials.

Vitalograph is a long- established, privately owned UK company which has had a presence in Ireland since 1975. Ennis is the company’s only RD facility and it employs 85 people primarily in hi-tech engineering roles.

The asma-I device was designed in conjunction with the University of Limerick, a Lisburn- based electronics company and a UK industrial design company that fine-tuned the device’s styling and ergonomics.

“We worked with partners as we had no bluetooth experience and wanted to short-circuit its acquisition rather than trying to develop it from scratch ourselves,” Keane says.

“Having the bluetooth element was important for two key reasons,” he adds. “With our clinical trials customers, it means the data is automatically uploaded and any necessary interventions quickly made.

“With personal users, we were looking forward to the point where plans for a more integrated health service are put in place and there will be an increased use of technology to monitor people from a distance.”

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