We’re one of the winners of the Health 2.0 Cystic Fibrosis Challenge! Between July 2014 and January 2015 we participated in the Technology for Cystic Fibrosis Life Transitions Challenge, which was sponsored by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. We are honoured to have been awarded third place for our concept mobile app, Breathr!

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a life-threatening genetic disease affecting approximately 75,000 people worldwide. People with CF are born with a defective gene that leads the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that affects multiple organs, including the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. There is no cure for CF. As patients grow-up, they are faced with increasingly complex care regimens that take several hours daily.

This challenge was to explore ways in which technologies could help young people living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) - particularly in ways traditional medical treatment could not. The prognosis for people with CF has improved significantly in recent years thanks to medical research, and an increasing number of people with CF survive well into adulthood. This wonderful improved outlook for people with CF means a young patient now faces the universal challenge of transitioning into adulthood with the additional hurdle of learning to self-manage their condition.

Support team in your pocket

People with CF are unable to interact with one another in person due to serious cross infection risks - so we saw them as being the ultimate candidates for an online community, and felt enabling a method of peer support would be invaluable.

We developed Breathr as a social, yet safe and secure community, where patients could ask questions and share their experiences on a newsfeed seen by all fellow community members – they could comment and react to another’s post, conversing about a particular issue. Users could share a relevant links or resources, or simply post a status update letting the rest of the community know how they are. Users could also have the option to send private messages to each other, and the community would be overseen by a dedicated community manager and a CF nurse. The community manager and CF nurse’s presence would ensure advice being shared between users was safe and relevant to people with CF.

Mobile access to CF nurses

Breathr would also provide community members with the option to schedule a video meeting with the CF nurse to seek advice privately. The Breathr community would be free from advertising.

Challenges for health behavior change

Breathr would encourage users to complete challenges, with tasks relating to positive and healthful behaviors. Completing these tasks would earn a user points, and the chance to appear on the community leaderboard.

We would like to give thanks to Cystic Fibrosis New Zealand, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Breathe Easy, Cystic Life and Boomer Esiason Foundation for their insights and advice during our completion of this challenge. Special thanks to two young people with CF, Angus and Sarah, for the feedback they gave us on our prototype and the video testimonials they provided for our challenge entry.

Breathr has already received positive feedback from the CF community. We are now working towards securing funding and partnerships to make Breathr a reality.