Smart technology for self-management of COPD

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a long-term breathing condition that is often caused by smoking. Smart phones, tablets, and PCs may be very helpful for people who have COPD and are living at home because these devices can provide information, education, and guidance on the condition. This information can be personalised for each individual, for example, it can recommend an appropriate exercise programme or give advice on how to stop smoking.

Study characteristics

We included in our review 557 participants from three studies; 319 received smart technology to support self-management, and 238 received face-to-face verbal/written or digital information and education about self-management. The average age of participants was 64 years. Our review included more men than women because the sample from one study consisted of war veterans, most of whom were men. Participants used the technology for just four weeks in one study to six months in the second and four months in the third, which also reported data at 12 months. Technology used in these studies included smart phones or PCs.

Key results

People who received smart technology showed greater improvement in self-management and quality of life and increased physical activity compared with people who received face-to-face/digital and/or written support over a four-week to six-month period. Also, hospital admissions and exacerbations of COPD did not differ between those who used smart technology and those who did not. Only one study provided information about people who stopped smoking and reported no differences between groups.

Quality of the evidence

We found only three studies all at high risk of bias – that we could include in this review, and we could conduct analysis on only two of our outcomes (quality of life and increased physical activity). As a result, we think that current information does not show clearly whether smart technology is helpful for people with COPD. We recommend further research of high quality that focuses on outcomes relevant to different stages of COPD. Researchers should be clear about how self-management is assessed, should report standard trial outcomes, particularly cost, and should include follow-up for at least one year so they can provide comments on behavioural change and impact of treatment.