In a world of making healthcare better, Laura King, a Senior Children & Young People’s Asthma Practitioner, and Jess Russell, an Asthma Practitioner focusing on Children and Young People, both integral members of North East London’s healthcare team, have spearheaded a transformative approach in patient care. Their dedication to implementing the Digital Health Passport app will hopefully help in getting patients more involved with their asthma self-management.

Below, they share invaluable insights through a series of questions, shedding light on their journey and the remarkable impact of their approach in asthma management.

Q1: How did the idea of incorporating the Digital Health Passport app into asthma management come about? How were you introduced to it?

Jess: I was introduced to the app via our children’s asthma network during the preparations for #AskAboutAsthma week. We were planning to launch/promote the app during #AskAboutAsthma week as there were many events organised throughout the week where we could take the opportunity to introduce and encourage use of the app to key clinicians.

Laura: I’ve known about the app for a while now, but in this role have been able to help embed it into practice across the network. What’s really exciting is that in our network we have seven different boroughs and six hospitals, a richly diverse population and really engaged asthma teams – so we’ve been able to try lots of different ways to share the DHP and see what works best!

Q2: What sets the Digital Health Passport app apart in assisting asthma patients compared to traditional methods?

Laura: I’ve seen a fair few apps for asthma over the years – what I really like about the DHP is that it isn’t pure monitoring or alerting or information, it provides all that and more. I also really appreciate how engaged the team are when we come to them with what we need or envision in our area.

Jess: The ability for the patient to have their personalised asthma action plan in an electronic format and general advice/education in one easily accessible place is a big advantage to our patients.

Q3: Could you share an example or two of successful patient engagements using the app?

Jess: The app was really well received by a teenage patient who was asked to complete a peak flow diary. When I showed him that he could record his peak flow values on the app, his engagement improved and he was keen to download the app to manage his peak flow recordings online, rather than using a paper diary (which he had done before).

Laura: We had a stand at a popup event for children & families in Barking & Dagenham at Christmas time. We took a big DHP banner and had lots of families come by asking about where they could learn more about asthma. It was great to be able to suggest the app as a way to get quality information, 24/7!

Q4: What challenges do you face whilst rolling out the app? How do you overcome them?

Jess: The hardest part is making sure our patients remember to download the app after we’ve told them about it! Lately we have been encouraging our patients to download it during their consultation to make sure it’s not forgotten when they leave!

Laura: Yes, agreed! We’ve found that once clinical teams are aware of the app, they are super keen to promote it to patients.

Q5: How have you promoted the app to ensure maximum patient participation?

Laura: We have been using reels of stickers in clinics, sticking one on each PAAP we give. One of our hospitals has been brilliant, and their ED, PAU and ward have agreed to give out the stickers, popping them on the inhaler boxes and on their discharge paperwork. We added information and a QR code to the app into our patient information booklet so we are trying to encourage use all around!

We also have a project with some community pharmacies in Newham where the teams are running an innovative “quality conversations” project around asthma and air pollution. The pharmacies were keen to give out the stickers/add to pharmacy bags or inhalers to give the patients a longer-term support and continue their education at home.

Jess: We’ve been discussing it with every patient during clinics and promoting it to clinicians during teaching/learning events. I’ve been encouraging clinicians to download the clinician view so they have a good understanding of the app before they advise their patients to use it.

Q6: What features of the app have received the most positive feedback from patients? OR What features of the app do you think will be adopted quickly by your patients?

Laura: I have found that the pollen / pollution alert feature has been the reason many families have adopted the app. However, once they download and start the initial survey they find the other features really useful.

Jess: Being able to have an up to date copy of the patient’s personalised action plan in an electronic format, easily found on the app, rather than scrolling back through pictures/emails etc.

Q7: How do you measure the app's impact on patient outcomes and overall healthcare delivery?

Jess: We are searching for ‘high risk children with asthma’ who’s asthma care is not optimised and advising this cohort of children to download the app to help manage their condition. Over time, we are hoping that we will see a reduction in the number of children classified as ‘high risk’ and that the app will have supported them in self-management of their condition.

Laura: We are hoping to evaluate the impact of the app on the cohorts in the care of our patch teams, to help support them in the monitoring phase and to understand the effectiveness of therapies (step up/down).

Q8: What advice would you give to other healthcare professionals looking to implement similar digital tools in their practice?

Jess: Make sure you find time to give your patients a demonstration of the app, so they can see for themselves how easy it is to use or the benefits of using it.

Laura: And if you can, and they are keen to use the app, help guide them through download/onboarding – some of the families I have seen recently aren’t very digitally literate or the parent struggles with English. Every contact counts and some of our families would find this tricky at home, or simply forget!

Q9: Can you share a patient success story that was facilitated through the use of the Digital Health Passport app?

Laura: I saw a young female patient just this morning who is incredibly anxious. Her mother had quite pronounced learning disability and so whilst I explained all I could in the session, and show the practical elements like peak flow and inhaler technique, I felt more confident knowing I was sending them home with access to the app and all its learning content. My patient is going to start monitoring her own peak flow, using the app, and her symptoms to try and gauge what is asthma and what is anxiety.

Jess: I saw a young male patient in clinic, who had poor inhaler technique. I demonstrated correct technique to him and his father, however, when he returned his technique had not improved. His parents spoke limited English, so I asked the patient to download the Digital Health Passport app and directed the family to the inhaler technique videos. Having the videos to hand when at home, meant that they could check inhaler technique between appointments. When the patient came back to clinic, his inhaler technique was much improved – the videos had definitely helped!

Q10: What future developments or expansions do you envision for the Digital Health Passport app in asthma care? (If you had a wishlist!)

Jess: It would be great if the Digital Health Passport team could add North East London specific information & resources to the app to make it more relatable for our patients and align the app with the information they receive if they attend hospital/their GP surgery.

Laura: What she said! I would love to see more local information and resources, especially as we have worked so hard to standardise our patient information. This would mean we wouldn’t need to give out tonnes of paper and know our patients will have the information in their pocket, all the time.

Laura and Jess’s pioneering efforts in leveraging technology to enhance patient care stand as a testament to the possibilities within healthcare. Their dedication to improving self management of asthma patients through the Digital Health Passport app sets a shining example for healthcare professionals worldwide.