Dublin tech company devises monitoring app for cystic fibrosis patients

App allows CF patients to avoid hospital check-ups as Covid-19 crisis leaves them vulnerable

The crisis has presented doctors with a challenge as to how routine tests for people with CF can be carried out while minimising the risk of exposure to Covid-19. Photograph: iStock

The crisis has presented doctors with a challenge as to how routine tests for people with CF can be carried out while minimising the risk of exposure to Covid-19. Photograph: iStock

 

A Dublin-based healthcare technology company has devised an app to improve monitoring of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) as the Covid-19 crisis makes it almost impossible for those patients to visit a hospital.

PatientMpower released the technology, which can help reduce risks for patients with CF, who are among the high-risk groups currently advised to cocoon at home during the crisis and are vulnerable to lung infections even during normal times.

The crisis has presented doctors with a challenge as to how routine tests for people with CF can be carried out while minimising the risk of exposure to Covid-19. Those patients typically visit a hospital every three months to see their hospital team.

PatientMpower’s technology collects via Bluetooth the data that CF patients gather on a daily basis through medical devices such as their oxygen saturation. It then transmits that data to their hospital team.

“From our work with respiratory specialists, we knew there was an urgent need for a new way of providing care for people with CF because of the current crisis,” said Dr Colin Edwards, chief scientific officer with PatientMpower. “Our solution will enable home monitoring for the multiple aspects of cystic fibrosis, not only lung function but also oxygen saturation, body weight, medication use and much more,” he said.

Exposure

University Hospital Galway is currently trailing the technology with 37 adult patients and the company is in active discussions with several Irish hospitals. In the Republic, there are an estimated 1,300 CF patients.

“Bringing patients into the hospital for routine check-ups places them at increased risk of exposure to the virus, and delaying these check-ups simply isn’t an option,” explained Dr Michael O’Mahony, respiratory consultant and specialist in CF at University Hospital Galway.

“Prior to the crisis we were setting up a video conferencing system that allowed our CF care team to interact with patients like a normal hospital consultation. The missing piece though was how to get information on patients’ lung function and other vital signs - this is a crucial part of the check-up,” he said.

PatientMpower, based in Dublin’s Digital Hub – a cluster of technology, digital media and internet companies in the Liberties – provides technology for people living with long term illnesses. Aside from its Covid-19 remote home monitoring programme, the company offers home monitoring for lung conditions, including those who have done a lung transplant. That technology is in use across centres in Ireland, the UK and the US.