Big Brother or a Constant Support?

04 Jun Big Brother or a Constant Support?

Big Brother or a Constant Support?

How often do you feel like you need that extra push to get out and exercise – most likely from a personal trainer? How often do you feel like you need your Mum’s watchful eye over the top of you to actually clean your room? When we are faced with something that is a challenge to complete, it is natural to respond to an external stimulus to get it done (Mum is really the scariest). Well now it could be possible to have that to help you treat your respiratory related disease.

A recent study investigated the effectiveness of remotely monitoring people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in terms of inhaler use and daily step counts. The study involved the participants completing a daily symptom diary, wearing an accelerometer to track steps, and using metered dose inhalers with sensors implanted to track time and number of puffs delivered. Whilst this study did track a broad disease population range (given that COPD is an umbrella term for many respiratory disorders), it was nonetheless very effective in displaying several key results:

  1. Frequent, unpatterned inhaler use pattern was associated with worse respiratory symptoms and less physical activity compared with frequent inhaler use with a regular daily pattern.
  2. There was a strong week-by-week correlation among measurements, suggesting that 1 week of monitoring is sufficient to characterise stable patients with COPD.

This method of monitoring patients could be ideal, because it provides real-time access to health data and statistics of the subjects for treating physicians. Your GP or consulting specialist would be able to ensure your current treatment for your respiratory related disorder is working appropriately and successfully – without having to make an appointment or lift a finger.

However, could this be interpreted differently?

This level of remote monitoring resembles the beginnings of a Big Brother figure, where your every step is watched – literally. Would everybody want to have their daily movements tracked by an over-arching medical figure?

The works are still very much in progress, and as usual – don’t trust the latest free App that claims to be the one and only saviour for your health.


Bowler R, Allinder M, Jacobson S, et al Real-world use of rescue inhaler sensors, electronic symptom questionnaires and physical activity monitors in COPD BMJ Open Respiratory Research 2019;6:e000350. doi: 10.1136/bmjresp-2018-000350