Finalist 2021

Meet wheezo – designed to assist with asthma management

Respiri / outerspace

wheezo is a digital wheeze monitoring system that mimics how a doctor listens for respiratory wheeze with a stethoscope.

wheezo is a digital wheeze monitoring system that mimics how a doctor listens for respiratory wheeze with a stethoscope.

wheezo’s breath sensor device and app record, analyse and build a picture of a person’s asthma by tracking symptoms, triggers, peak flow measurements and medication use. This data is shared with physicians to support asthma management.

Design Brief

339 million affected globally by asthma (2016), resulting in 418,000 deaths. Asthma particularly affects children as their leading cause of burden in Australia. Asthma costs Australia $27.9 billion in total.

Unfortunately, clinical asthma management decisions are based on patient memory of symptoms and is highly subjective. Patients are poor judges of their condition with 60.4% reporting “well-controlled” asthma when in reality, only 30.3% were. Young children are difficult to assess and may struggle to communicate symptoms. Well managed asthma prevents hospital visits.

Thus, wheezo needed to be an engaging and friendly wheeze monitoring and asthma management assistant for people living with asthma.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

wheezo is designed to be quick and easy to use, portable and child-friendly. It’s a medical product that is designed to look not-so-medical - with an approachable form.

wheezo’s egg-like shape was developed by referencing the playful objects children like to hold - such as a soft, smooth pebble or egg shape. Form studies were used to test ergonomics. Wheezo feels soft and smooth in the hand, fitting easily into a bag, pocket or lunchbox.

The design team focused heavily on ergonomics for the design of the wheezo device, building multiple mock-ups and testing to understand what worked best for children and adults.

The egg shape was selected for its versatility and its playful nature. Side indents give a more natural grip, that keeps hands clear of the noise cancelling microphone built into the lower flat face. The ergonomics ensure a positive user experience.

Design Excellence

wheezo’s operation was designed to be simple with a single button operation and indicator light. wheezo is carefully balanced and weighted for the hand. Its soft finish makes it inviting to touch and also durable, improves acoustics and provides a continuous surface for easy cleaning. The blue cap is easy to remove and replace.

wheezo’s complex clipping system prevents access to electronics. Extensive testing assessed dropping, squeezing, and mechanical advantage. wheezo can’t be opened without a tool to leverage and flex the outside shell.

Components are fixed or encapsulated with clip retaining rings, or fastened under the weighted block. wheezo is formatted for children to use safely. The base is detailed so it sits safely on flat surfaces. wheezo is ergonomically designed for easy use with a recessed secondary microphone to avoid it being obscured.

Design Innovation

wheezo is designed with parents and carers in mind. It aims to assist with the challenges of managing asthma in children, by helping them follow best practices as per the international asthma management guidelines.

The wheezo device is a first of its class in Australia, digital wheeze monitor. Together, the device and app record and analyse breath sounds for the presence of wheeze. In addition, the app assists with monitoring other self-reported symptoms, triggers, peak flow measurements, and medication use alongside local environmental factors such as air irritants and pollen.

The Asthma Control Test (ACT) is also integrated, with scores tracked over time. This simple set of 5 questions is a clinically validated tool to assist HCPs understand a patient’s level of asthma control. The app also allows for digitisation of a personal asthma action plan to remind users how to manage their asthma. As users input data, they build a detailed history which can be easily and securely shared with healthcare professionals on demand.

The only previously available commercial wheeze monitor was Respiri’s predecessor to this device. The new design offers significant improvement, in eliminating interference caused by the shell of the device and environment, and ergonomic usability, visual impact, and user experience. The device uses an adhesive GORE vent to prevent ingress of fluids and refuse through the environmental microphone when it is placed on surfaces. The app is intuitive and easy to use.

Design Impact

wheezo gives people a clearer picture of their self-reported asthma, making them feel more in control of their condition. It also extends asthma care beyond the clinic - into the home and everyday activities for people with asthma. Sharing this data may support physicians to provide optimal asthma management.

This data is digitally collected, connected and analysed rather than relying on manual processes and paper-based forms. It’s a steppingstone for advancements in respiratory digital health.

Future research and development will support clinical management decisions, potentially predict exacerbations and recommend optimal management response.

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