By David Douglas
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The Health Buddy, an interactive World Wide Web-based device, appears effective in improving self-management and outcome in children with asthma, researchers report in the February issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
In fact, lead author Dr. Sylvia Guendelman told Reuters Health, that "as the costs of healthcare increase and direct contact time with patients decrease, Web-based devices that help people develop self-management skills perform an important function in our healthcare system."
Dr. Guendelman, of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues, evaluated the system in inner-city asthmatic children between 8 and 16 years old. In total, 66 were randomized to use the Health Buddy and 68 to employ an asthma diary to record their symptoms.
Via a screen, a set of buttons and a telephone connection, Health Buddy users answered 10 questions posed daily by a nurse coordinator about their asthma symptoms, peak flow readings, and so forth. As well as supplying instant feedback, the device also provided asthma facts and trivia questions designed to pique the "children's curiosity and enhance learning."
After adjustment for covariates, the results showed that during the 90 day-trial, children using the Health Buddy were significantly less likely to have had any asthma-related limitation on their physical activity than were controls. They were also significantly less likely to have made urgent calls to the hospital, or to have had peak flow readings below 80% of their personal best.
This study, Dr. Guendelman concluded, "shows that interactive devices, such as the Health Buddy, may be useful tools to empower children with asthma to monitor and provide their own care while reducing asthma symptoms and urgent calls to the hospital."
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2002;156:114-120.