Digital technology for monitoring adherence to inhaled therapies in people with cystic fibrosis

Sherie Smith*, Rebecca Calthorpe, Sophie Herbert, Alan R. Smyth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Improved understanding and treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF) has led to longer life expectancy, which is accompanied by an increasingly complex regimen of treatments. Suboptimal adherence to the treatment plan, in the context of respiratory disease, has been found to be associated with poorer health outcomes. With digital technology being more accessible, it can be used to monitor adherence to inhaled therapies via chipped nebulisers, mobile phone apps and web-based platforms. This technology can allow monitoring of adherence as well as clinical outcomes, and allow feedback to both the person with CF and their healthcare team. Objectives: To assess the effects of using digital technology to monitor adherence to inhaled therapies and health status in adults and children with CF. Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis Trials Register, compiled from electronic database searches and handsearching of journals and conference abstract books. Date of last search: 28 October 2021. We also searched Embase and three clinical trial registries and checked references of included studies. Date of last search: 9 November 2021. Selection criteria: We searched for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) looking at the effects of a digital technology for monitoring adherence of children and adults with CF to inhaled therapies. Data collection and analysis: Two review authors screened the search results for studies eligible for inclusion in the review and extracted their data. We used Risk of Bias 2 for assessing study quality. We assessed the overall certainty of the evidence using GRADE. Main results: We included two studies in our review, with 628 participants aged five to 41 years. There was one study each for two different comparisons. Nebuliser target inhalation mode versus standard inhalation mode. The included parallel study was carried out over 10 weeks after a run-in period of four to six weeks. The study compared the effects of a digitally enhanced inhalation mode (target inhalation mode) for nebulised antibiotics compared to standard mode in children attending a regional CF clinic in the United Kingdom. The study's primary outcome was the time taken to complete the inhaled treatment, but investigators also reported on adherence to therapy. The results showed that there may be an improvement in adherence with the target inhalation mode when this intervention is used (mean difference (MD) 24.0%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.95 to 45.05; low-certainty evidence). The target inhalation mode may make little or no difference to forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) % predicted (MD 1.00 % predicted, 95% CI -9.37 to 11.37; low-certainty evidence). The study did not report on treatment burden, quality of life (QoL) or pulmonary exacerbations. eNebuliser with digital support versus eNebuliser without support. One large multicentre RCT monitored adherence via data-tracking nebulisers. The intervention group also receiving access to an online web-based platform, CFHealthHub, which offered tailored, flexible support from the study interventionist as well as access to their adherence data, educational and problem-solving information throughout the 12-month trial period. We graded all evidence as moderate certainty. Compared to usual care, the digital intervention probably improves adherence to inhaled therapy (MD 18%, 95% CI 12.90 to 23.10); probably leads to slightly reduced treatment burden (MD 5.1, 95% CI 1.79 to 8.41); and may lead to slightly improved FEV1 % predicted (MD 3.70, 95% CI -0.23 to 7.63). There is probably little or no difference in the incidence of pulmonary exacerbations or QoL between the two groups. Authors' conclusions: Digital monitoring plus tailored support via an online platform probably improves adherence to inhaled therapies and reduces treatment burden (but without a corresponding change in QoL) in the medium term (low- and moderate-certainty evidence). In a shorter time frame, technological enhancement of inhaling antibiotics may improve adherence to treatment (low-certainty evidence). There may be little or no effect on lung function with either intervention, and online monitoring probably makes no difference to pulmonary exacerbations. Future research should assess the effect of digital technology on adherence in both children and adults. Consideration of adherence to the total treatment regimen is also important, as an improvement in adherence to inhaled therapies could come at the cost of adherence to other parts of the treatment regimen.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD013733
Number of pages46
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 03 Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by the National Institute for Health Research, via Cochrane Infrastructure funding to the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Systematic Reviews Programme, NIHR, NHS or the Department of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Digital technology for monitoring adherence to inhaled therapies in people with cystic fibrosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this