Author Archives: David Van Sickle

RWJF Scholar Puts GPS Technology to Work Fighting Asthma

Mar 5, 2012, 1:00 PM, Posted by David Van Sickle

David Van Sickle, PhD, MA, an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program and founder and CEO of Asthmapolis, has created a new device called a Spiroscout. It is an inhaler with a built-in Global-Positioning System (GPS) that sends a signal with the time and location to a remote server every time a patient uses it. Asthmapolis tracks and analyzes the data and sends regular reports to patients and physicians, along with observations and recommendations.

Last summer, RWJF’s Alumni Network talked with Van Sickle, an epidemiologist and medical anthropologist, and then this month, the RWJF Human Capital Blog followed up with a few more questions. The combined results of those conversations follow:

RWJF Alumni Network (AN): Have you always been working on asthma?

David Van Sickle: My whole career has been focused on asthma. I did my dissertation research on asthma in India and worked at the respiratory center in Arizona during grad school. When I was at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I was working in outbreak investigations, trying to figure out where and when asthma was happening, so we could better target our public health activities.

AN: How did you get the idea for your company?

Van Sickle: At the national level, we suffer from a lack of data about the day-to-day burden of asthma. When I went to the University of Wisconsin with the RWJF fellowship, and began to look more closely at the clinical management of asthma, I realized that physicians also suffered from a lack of information on how their patients were doing. I thought we could solve these two problems with one new technology that tracked where and when people are using their inhalers, which provides an important signal of how well the disease is being managed.

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