Smart Inhalers: An Holistic Approach to Asthma Management

Identifying where Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs) fall down and how an holistic solution with Smart-Tech integration could pick them back up.

Second only to pills, inhalers are the most commonly prescribed medication form in the world¹, with MDIs having the largest presence on the inhaler marketplace. However, they are far from being faultless. Is this a consequence of its simplistic, cost-efficient design, or because of a deeper routed issue that lies with lack of user-centred consideration right at the start of the design phase, 40 years ago? With devices moving rapidly adopting smart technology, how could this advancement aid the user experience of MDIs?

Just how Intuitive are they?

This is an area that MDIs excel at, partly down to their bare-bones design, but also with help from an array of subtle detailing and intuitive features that often go over-looked. Raised lines on the underside of the device act as a universal indicator for a touchpoint. The subtle colour difference of the mouth-piece cap is a call to action, whilst the orientation of the logo communicates the orientation that the device should be held in.

Where does it all go wrong then?

A step-by-step summary of the administration process.


Absence of Feedback

With each stage being entirely reliant on the user, who’s perception of time during potentially stressful situations may be somewhat altered, it comes as no surprise that they are potentially not holding their breathe for the specified duration. But without any feedback, how are they to know how when the time has elapsed?

How smart tech could help


A fuss-free, stripped-back interface would effectively communicate the duration for each stage of breathing, without requiring the user to fixate on keeping count themselves.


Let’s take it a step further

The Inhaler

‘Your score can show whether or not your condition is getting worse. It can also check if your medication is working, and indicate whether you’re having an asthma attack’. — National Health Service, 2020⁵

Relying on a user to carry a Peak Flow metre with them at all times is a bit of large ask, however by integrating it into the one device it removes this requirement. Respire allows users to log their Peak Flow measurements at the time of an attack, allowing a clear picture of their symptoms and triggers to be created.


Respire’s additional feature of a PEF metre allows for the monitoring process to be taken a step further. It enables the user to monitor their symptoms immediately after the attack. This key data can then be transferred to their GP, who can then build a comprehensive picture of their possible triggers.

The data can also be used to monitor and log the severity and duration of the attack. Which can show if the attacks are worsening over time.

Market Justification

However, growing popularity in personal healthcare devices could challenge this. A recent article published by Deloitte gave positive insights into the investments of the emerging health care tech sector⁶.

OMDIA Technology have predicted a $5million increase in the personal health device market. Again, showing the increasing demand for smart medical devices.

You don’t have to analyse the market to witness the growing popularity. A quick scroll through your phones app store will reveal an extensive list of apps focused on monitoring and tracking elements of the user’s health. Although scrolling through all of them may take you a while, as there is an estimated 318,000 health related apps on the Apple App Store⁷!

So could a device that offers the user intelligent asthma management through tracking and monitoring be on the horizon? I certainly think so, it would be great to hear your thoughts.


¹ JB,. and BK, R., 005. Problems With Inhy

aler Usse: A Call For Improved Clinician And Patient Education. [online] PubMed. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 June 2020].

² 2020. 84% Of People With Asthma May Be Using Their Inhalers Incorrectly, Propeller Health Study Finds. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 8 June 2020].

³ Rice University. (2017, February 28). Inhaler users get about half as much medicine as they should from each puff: Researchers measure impact of inhaler patients’ common mistakes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 8, 2020 from

⁴ Ruth, D., 2017. Inhaler Study: How Much Medicine Makes It To Lungs?. [online] Available at: <,that%20drops%20to%207%20percent.> [Accessed 9 June 2020].

⁵ 2020. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 June 2020].

⁶ Micca, P., Boozer Cruse, C. and Shukla, M., 2020. Health Tech Investment Trends: How Are Investors Positioning For The Future Of Health?. [online] Deloitte Insights. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 June 2020].

⁷ Hall, R., 2020. Health Apps: How Mobile Apps Are Improving Our Lives & Well Being. [online] MindSea Development. Available at: <,available%20just%20two%20years%20ago.> [Accessed 14 June 2020].

Product Designer with a Passion for User Experience