UCI Leads Study in Collaboration with Apple, Inc. on the Use of Technology for Asthma Care

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

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Anthem, Inc. announced a new study which is being conducted by University of California, Irvine (UCI) that examines how the use of everyday devices, like Apple Watch and iPhone, may help individuals with asthma better self-manage their condition for improved clinical outcomes. The virtual study was designed in collaboration with Apple, Inc. CareEvolution, the study technology partner responsible for building the study app and enabling collection of the study data.

Launching in the fall, the two-year, randomized controlled study will enroll participants from Anthem-affiliated health plans who have been clinically diagnosed with asthma. Nearly 25 million Americans are currently diagnosed with some form of the chronic condition, and, when uncontrolled, asthma can lead to permanent lung damage, hospitalizations, and even premature death. Additionally, nearly 1.8 million emergency department visits each year are counted as a result of asthma attacks.  

“As part of our mission of improving people’s lives, we are making it easier for consumers to proactively manage their health through our digital-first approach to delivering healthcare solutions and services,” said Rajeev Ronanki, chief digital officer, Anthem, Inc. “Millions of Americans are struggling with their asthma condition each day and we’re thrilled to collaborate with UCI, Apple and CareEvolution on studying new solutions.” 

The primary goal of the study is to investigate clinical changes in outcomes associated with the use of the new digital tools in self-management of asthma. Additionally, the study will explore if data collected from everyday use devices such as iPhone and Apple Watch can help predict asthma exacerbation or serve as potential digital biomarkers of asthma control. 

“Personalized medicine and improving the health of populations are based on similar principles. The human body contains critical information – data – necessary to diagnose and treat our patients,” said Dr. Steve Goldstein, vice chancellor for health affairs at UCI. “Through innovation and emerging technologies, we are able to harness that data, and by coupling it with an individual’s environment and experiences, chart pathways to lifelong health and well-being. Public-private collaborations like this one with UCI, Anthem and Apple, are fueled by the passion to serve and shared entrepreneurial spirit and are helping us establish new standards of whole-person care for our patients.”

“The Digital Asthma Study brings together Apple Watch’s innovative technology with an engaging app-based self-management experience to investigate how consumers can better manage and control a prevalent condition,” says Myoung Cha, head of Health Strategic Initiatives, Apple. “We hope this study can help the medical community produce new insights about asthma control and can identify effective digital tools that can help empower people around the world to better manage their condition.”

About the Study 

Eligible participants will be invited to enroll in the study. Participants who choose to enroll in the study will receive a BedditTM Sleep Monitor and an Apple Watch. 

While there is no cure for asthma, studies have shown that many people can improve their symptoms and reduce exacerbation risk through self-management behaviors including avoiding triggers - such as pollen, mold or smoke - medication adherence, and correct inhaler technique.[1] However, asthma self-management is often far from ideal, with some data suggesting that less than 50 percent of individuals with asthma are well-controlled.[2] Scalable and effective solutions are needed to empower patients to improve asthma self-management and reduce the need for costly asthma care.[3]

To investigate the impact of digital intervention on asthma symptoms and healthcare utilization, the active group of the study will have access to the digital asthma tool, designed for the study. The digital asthma tool includes daily symptom and trigger tracking to provide awareness of asthma control and personalized nudges based on changes in signals from their Apple Watch including activity, heart rate, the new Blood Oxygen feature and other health metrics. Participants will also receive timely curated education materials and prescription refill resources. 

Designed with patient privacy in mind, the study offers the participants complete control over their data, and transparency into how the data will be used and shared. Data will be stored on the participants’ device and shared through a direct, encrypted connection with CareEvolution. 

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