The development of an automated device for asthma monitoring for adolescents: Methodologic approach and user acceptability

Hyekyun Rhee, Sarah Miner, Mark Sterling, Jill S. Halterman, Eileen Fairbanks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Many adolescents suffer serious asthma related morbidity that can be prevented by adequate self-management of the disease. The accurate symptom monitoring by patients is the most fundamental antecedent to effective asthma management. Nonetheless, the adequacy and effectiveness of current methods of symptom self-monitoring have been challenged due to the individuals' fallible symptom perception, poor adherence, and inadequate technique. Recognition of these limitations led to the development of an innovative device that can facilitate continuous and accurate monitoring of asthma symptoms with minimal disruption of daily routines, thus increasing acceptability to adolescents. Objective: The objectives of this study were to: (1) describe the development of a novel symptom monitoring device for teenagers (teens), and (2) assess their perspectives on the usability and acceptability of the device. Methods: Adolescents (13-17 years old) with and without asthma participated in the evolution of an automated device for asthma monitoring (ADAM), which comprised three phases, including development (Phase 1, n=37), validation/user acceptability (Phase 2, n=84), and post hoc validation (Phase 3, n=10). In Phase 1, symptom algorithms were identified based on the acoustic analysis of raw symptom sounds and programmed into a popular mobile system, the iPod. Phase 2 involved a 7 day trial of ADAM in vivo, and the evaluation of user acceptance using an acceptance survey and individual interviews. ADAM was further modified and enhanced in Phase 3. Results: Through ADAM, incoming audio data were digitized and processed in two steps involving the extraction of a sequence of descriptive feature vectors, and the processing of these sequences by a hidden Markov model-based Viterbi decoder to differentiate symptom sounds from background noise. The number and times of detected symptoms were stored and displayed in the device. The sensitivity (true positive) of the updated cough algorithm was 70% (21/30), and, on average, 2 coughs per hour were identified as false positive. ADAM also kept track of the their activity level throughout the day using the mobile system's built in accelerometer function. Overall, the device was well received by participants who perceived it as attractive, convenient, and helpful. The participants recognized the potential benefits of the device in asthma care, and were eager to use it for their asthma management. Conclusions: ADAM can potentially automate daily symptom monitoring with minimal intrusiveness and maximal objectivity. The users' acceptance of the device based on its recognized convenience, user-friendliness, and usefulness in increasing symptom awareness underscores ADAM's potential to overcome the issues of symptom monitoring including poor adherence, inadequate technique, and poor symptom perception in adolescents. Further refinement of the algorithm is warranted to improve the accuracy of the device. Future study is also needed to assess the efficacy of the device in promoting self-management and asthma outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere27
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • Adolescents
  • Asthma
  • Mobile device
  • Symptom algorithm
  • Symptom monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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