Scientific progress has taken the health field to heights we could never have imagined years ago. We have come so far already: organ transplants, life-saving medications, artificial intelligence in medicine, and even mobile diagnostic tools that many can access from a smart device, to name a few. It seems that the sky is literally the limit when it comes to our medical capabilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has recently made us all much more aware of our respiratory systems. This shift has led to a whole host of innovative respiratory treatment options which are currently in development or on the market today.
Let’s check out some recent innovative respiratory treatments in use today.
Ventilators have been available in some form or another for quite a long time. However, we give these machines very little thought until we need them for a respiratory emergency. Everyone who has ever been on a ventilator, as well as the medical personnel who operate them, often caution others: “You never want to need to be on a ventilator.” The experience sounds equal parts traumatic and painful.
Setting aside the negative picture that many people have of ventilators, we can all appreciate the technological wonder these life-saving machines have become. In the past, Iron Lungs and other pieces of primitive equipment were our best defenses against a respiratory emergency. Now, we are developing remote-controlled ventilators. Besides effectively serving patients who need the machines, this technology can also protect (especially from infectious diseases) the nurses, doctors, and therapists who operate them.
Innovative Respiratory Treatment Techniques: Mobile Apps
One of the areas in which we can best leverage technology for our respiratory health is the mobile app space. Our smartphones and smart devices have computing power way beyond that of many early computers. We have such astounding computing power in the palm of our hands. In fact, our phones have are much more powerful than the computers that took humans to the moon. So, it seems likely we can do more with smartphones than we are currently.
A few uses of smartphones that immediately spring to mind include:
- Creating and playing games like Flappy Bird (as fun as that was)
- Collecting “friends” or “followers” and infinitely scrolling down our social media feed (as much as it takes our mind off our worries)
- Watching cat videos (as much as we love our furry friends surprising us even after millennia living with us).
It’s no surprise that companies have seized upon this unique opportunity to improve public health through the use of smartphones. One such company is Hyfe, which has created an app that is likely to revolutionize the diagnosis and management of respiratory conditions. Despite being a startup in its infancy, Hyfe is on the cutting edge of cough research and has already made some important contributions to the fight against COVID-19.
Additionally, apps such as the Wim Hof Method promote deep breathing and relaxation techniques. While much of the evidence surrounding the Wim Hof method is anecdotal, many people see significant improvement from following the teachings of the method. Certainly, one should proceed with caution if he or she intends to try the Wim Hof Method. But at its core, the technique promotes deep breathing, modified cryotherapy, and meditation. Many of the things health practitioners promote already!
Innovative Respiratory Treatment Techniques: Breathing Exercises
It’s difficult to say that diaphragmatic or deep breathing is an “innovative” approach to respiratory therapy. After all, deep breathing techniques have been integral components of many cultural traditions for centuries. Regardless of how the technique is classified, what’s important is that people see how effective the treatment can be. For example, a study from 2017 found that a diaphragmatic breathing program improved cognitive performance and reduced stress in participants.
The American Lung Association has provided a list of recommendations for improving respiratory health as well. For example, the group asserts that general exercise, such as walking, strengthens the lungs and enhances overall fitness. Additionally, the ALA promotes belly breathing (or diaphragmatic breathing, described above) and pursed-lips breathing exercises to improve lung health.
Similarly, Johns Hopkins has outlined breathing exercises that are to be performed in different positions. These varying positions include sitting, lying on the stomach, and lying on the back, among others. These changes in position promote lung health and are presented in a progressive manner to assist patients who are recovering from COVID-19.
What Does the Future Hold For Respiratory Treatments?
It’s hard to say what advancements we are likely to see in the respiratory health field over the next decade. COVID-19 is a powerful force in our world, driving us to innovate and improve our medical practices with regards to respiratory health.
Whatever changes occur over the next few years, we can be certain they will involve technology to a significant degree. As our understanding of respiratory health and disease improves, the only way to effectively implement the best available evidence on a large scale will be through technology.