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Acceptability to patients and clinicians of an AI-based app to support people with COPD.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a long-term disabling lung disease characterised by a persistent reduction of airflow with exacerbations that require prompt treatment. The primary cause of COPD is exposure to tobacco smoke (either active smoking or second-hand smoke).

In their 2017 factsheet on the condition, the World Health Organization notes that internationally COPD is likely to increase in coming years due to higher smoking prevalence and ageing populations in certain countries ( 

Hands using smartphone app

The British Lung Foundation points out that an estimated 1.2 million people in the UK are living with COPD. Their research also suggests that prevalence is growing with the number of people having a COPD diagnosis increasing by 27% in the last decade. This will affect older females in particular, despite falling UK smoking rates, due to longer life expectancy.

Whilst this recorded increase in prevalence of COPD may be due to better recording practices, as a serious chronic illness, COPD represents a major challenge to individuals living with the condition and the wider NHS.

Supported self-management has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and improve quality of life in people living with chronic illnesses. There is growing interest in the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) based apps to support patient self-management of chronic illness which, as well as recording symptoms and physiological measures, could give self-management advice (based on patient inputs and past history). This area is a rapidly developing field. As electronic devices improve, there may be potential for better monitoring of COPD patients.

Graphic of apps on smartphone

Developing an AI-based app to support self-management of COPD

This is a collaborative research project involving Edinburgh University, Pharmatics UK, clinicians in NHS Lothian working with COPD patients, COPD support groups and people living with COPD across Lothian.


  • To gather the views of clinicians working with COPD patients and patients living with the condition on what an AI-based COPD app should contain to help self-management.
  • Based on these views, to build an AI-based prototype COPD app and to go back to these same people and a wider audience of COPD patients on what they think of the prototype and how it could be further improved to help COPD self-management.


This is a mixed methods study incorporating 15-20 in-depth semi-structured interviews with clinicians working with COPD patients and 15-20 COPD patients. We will also conduct a survey of COPD patients using an online structured questionnaire.

Completion date: August 2018


Funder Pharmatics Ltd, Innovate UK
Chief Investigator Professor Brian McKinstry
Researcher Dr Eddie Donaghy, Dr Vicky Hammersley