Innovative digital platform to diagnose and treat breathlessness receives $1.87m grant

Researchers from UNSW Sydney and The George Institute will conduct a study on the first clinical electronic support system for breathlessness globally.

UNSW Professor Christine Jenkins and her team have received a $1.87 million Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant to trial an electronic Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS), improving the diagnosis and treatment of breathlessness.

The study titled BREATHE will examine the feasibility and benefits of using a CDSS, an electronic system to help clinical decision making, in improving patient outcomes compared to usual care.

One in every 10 Australians experience breathlessness

Head of the Respiratory Group at The George Institute for Global Health and Professor of Respiratory Medicine, UNSW Medicine & Health, Prof. Jenkins said one in every 10 Australian adults experiences breathlessness, but it is often misdiagnosed and mismanaged.

"The BREATHE-CDSS will help reduce the time taken to diagnose the causes accurately and provide patients with a treatment approach tailored to their needs," Prof. Jenkins said.

"Our focus groups with GPs have highlighted many challenges in providing the best care for these patients. Misdiagnosis, overuse of medicines and expensive tests are some of the barriers. There is an urgent need for a new approach to tackle them," Prof. Jenkins said.

Prof. Jenkins is a thoracic physician with a clinical and research focus on the management of airways disease. At The George Institute she supervises a research group and PhD students, implementing several trials in asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary rehabilitation in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.

In Australia, around 2 million people have difficulty breathing, which can be addressed by accurate diagnosis and comprehensive management of chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, post-COVID symptoms and COPD. With each of these conditions requiring a distinct treatment pathway, there is a need for a personalised, multifaceted approach suited to each patient.

The BREATHE-CDSS will be the first clinical electronic support system for breathlessness internationally

Developed by a multidisciplinary team of clinicians and technical experts from UNSW, The George Institute and the University of Sydney, the BREATHE-CDSS will be the first clinical electronic support system for breathlessness globally. This project team includes Professor David Peiris and Dr D Praveen from The George Institute who have implemented similar digital tools for cardiovascular disease detection and management.

"Our CDSS will support patients' priorities in managing their condition and related co-morbidities, for example, assistance with reducing anxiety with breathing techniques, and support for weight loss. It links to high quality educational materials and mobile apps that patients can use to reduce the impact of their symptoms day by day", said Prof. Jenkins.

Dean of UNSW Medicine & Health Professor Vlado Perkovic congratulated Prof. Jenkins and the team on securing the funding.

"This funding announcement is a major step forward in improving health outcomes for people experiencing breathlessness both in Australia and globally," Prof. Perkovic said. "Prof. Jenkins is a leader in this field, and I look forward to seeing the positive outcomes of this much-needed program to improve the diagnosis and treatment of breathlessness."

The five-year long BREATHE project will commence in 2023. For more information click here.

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