Almost one-third of Australians—or around 7.5 million of us—live with chronic respiratory diseases.
These conditions, which affect the lungs and airways, give rise to such distressing symptoms as shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and in some cases congestion.
They can also lead to reduced heart function, fitness, quality of life and even life expectancy.
Such is their impact that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare lists this group of conditions among the top 10 contributors to Australia’s total burden of disease, incurring costs creeping towards $5 billion annually.
Asthma is the most common, but they also include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, mesothelioma, silicosis and lung cancer.
While no cure for these conditions exists, their symptoms can be managed—and thus both quality of life and life expectancy improved—using a variety of interventions, key among them being pulmonary rehabilitation programs.
Associate Professor Zoe McKeough is a researcher in physiotherapy at the Sydney School of Health Sciences, internationally recognised in respiratory physiotherapy interventions for chronic lung disease.
Since 2018 she has been leading a team of academics, clinicians and engineers to develop a mobile digital platform called Mobile Pulmonary Rehabilitation (m-PR™) to support people with chronic lung diseases to better manage their conditions with rehabilitation.
Associat Professor McKeough recently completed a prestigious 12-month REDI Fellowship, which saw her collaborate with Australian digital healthcare company Perx Health on integrating the m-PR™ app into Perx Health’s existing chronic condition management platform, with a view to empowering people with chronic respiratory conditions to better engage with their treatment program.
The fellowship’s primary outcome to date has been the development of Perx-R, a commercially viable evidence-based scalable mobile health platform with the capacity to deliver pulmonary rehabilitation and improved self-management to people with chronic respiratory diseases throughout Australia.
But both Associate Professor McKeough and her industry partners at Perx Health confirm that the benefits have been far wider-reaching for both parties.
“As well as the opportunity to translate the m-PR™ prototype functionality onto the Perx Health infrastructure,” said Associate Professor McKeough.
“The REDI Fellowship has also given me the opportunity to start having important conversations with the necessary stakeholders within state and federal government, private and public health organisations, and private health insurers about implementing digital models of care.