If preventive care is the goal, digital medicines might be the solution

By David Stempel, MD, SVP of Clinical and Medical Affairs for Propeller Health

Despite advances in asthma care, the 25 million Americans with asthma still experience 1.8 million emergency room visits and over 400,000 hospitalizations for asthma.

The cost of this treatment adds up quickly. Patients with uncontrolled asthma are hit with repeated medical bills, with the burden taking a particularly severe toll on economically disadvantaged children. Healthcare systems bear the financial impact of avoidable ER visits and hospitalizations for asthma. And worst of all, patients and families suffer. The experience of receiving emergency care for asthma can be frightening, debilitating and traumatic.

What’s worse, many of these ER visits and hospitalizations could be avoided with better preventive treatment of asthma.

Digital medicines have the power to change these statistics. What’s more, we have the evidence to prove it.

This week, Propeller published a peer-reviewed study in World Allergy Organization Journal, which shows that people who used Propeller to manage their asthma saw 54 percent fewer emergency room visits compared to the previous year without the platform. There were also consistent changes in reduced asthma-related hospitalizations.

The study also showed that the decrease in utilization was consistent with a decrease in rescue inhaler use, and was also associated with a higher use of controller medication. More consistent use of controllers is associated with less need for rescue medication, less disruption to daily life and, importantly, fewer emergency room visits for asthma flare-ups. We are seeing reduced burden of disease to patients and reduced expenses from high-cost ER and hospital visits.


This study, conducted in partnership with Dignity Health, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Children’s Hospital Colorado and National Jewish Health in Denver, is a significant step in showing the power of digital medicines to enable self-management of chronic disease.

With a digital medicine, patients don’t have to feel that they’re alone in managing their disease between doctor’s appointments and hospital visits. Instead, they have a digital companion that can offer daily insights, tips and alerts, and that can prompt a physician to intervene when necessary. A digital medicine can motivate a patient to self-manage their disease — and help them flag issues before they’re severe enough to need treatment.

When patients visit the emergency room or hospital less often, every part of the healthcare system benefits. Providers have more time to spend on other patients, hospitals and payers save money, and patients enjoy more days outside the hospital. Driving down emergency room visits and hospitalizations is a goal we all share as healthcare practitioners, and we are confident that this is one of many studies that will show how digital medicines can contribute to this goal.

“Impact of a Digital Health Intervention on Asthma Resource Utilization” was co-authored by researchers at Dignity Health Woodland Clinic Medical Group, University of Colorado School of Medicine, National Jewish Health and Propeller Health and published in the World Allergy Organization Journal.