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Propeller Health Helps Patients Breathe Easier

The Internet of Things“,  an often used phrase coined in 1999, simply means that more and more objects are becoming embedded with sensors and gaining the ability to communicate via the Internet. In a previous article we discussed Proteus Digital Health and how they are introducing “digitally enabled medicine” through the use of tiny wireless sensors. Another good example of this concept applied is Propeller Health.

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About

Founded in 2010, Madison Wisconsin based Propeller Health has taken in $12 million in funding so far from  The Social+Capital Partnership, California HealthCare Foundation, Kapor Capital and other investors. In July of 2010, Propeller announced that they received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 510(k) clearance to market their asthma sensor system and associated software to healthcare providers and their patients. According to the CDC there are 26 million children and adults currently living with asthma in the United States or over 8% of the entire US population.

How It Works
For the patient, the Propeller sensor attaches to their inhaler and wirelessly syncs with their smart phone using Bluetooth. By downloading a smartphone app, the patient and doctor can then track how often the inhalers are being used along with the location and time-of-day. The patient can also track their triggers and symptoms and learn more about their asthma over time. Personalized feedback and education can be sent to the patient’s phone based on their symptoms, and medication reminders and alerts can easily be setup. According to an article on TechCrunch, early studies by Propeller found that this access to real-time data was able to reduce the number of people with uncontrolled asthma (or those not regularly using inhalers) by 50 percent.

The Market
Just recently, the company changed its name from “Asthmapolis” to “Propeller Health” to show their intent to take on other chronic respiratory diseases using the same tools and accumulated wisdom that iss already yielding results for asthma patients. Over 50 million people are affected by chronic respiratory diseases in the United States alone. While Propeller claims to be “the leading mobile platform for respiratory health management”, the question remains as to what barriers to entry prevent other startups from quickly moving into this space just as quickly as Propeller has. Nonetheless, the size of the potential market is vast and there is plenty of opportunity for Propeller given their first mover advantage.

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