Breathing life into pursed lip breathing and the implications of designing a product

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Pursed Lip Breathing (PLB) is one of the many management techniques used by patients suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Implementation of this technique aims to reduce a patient’s feeling of breathlessness and restore a sense of breathing control. Although PLB is widely taught, there is still much unknown about how best to teach the PLB technique and how expert PLB users become skilled. A potential solution is the development of a personal device that guides patients to achieve improved paced breathing whilst simultaneously collecting valuable information for the clinical setting. This work investigates the characteristics of a product for COPD patients to independently manage their breathlessness by using paced breathing principles. Interviews were conducted with COPD patients to identify rituals, attitudes and learning methods regarding PLB, as well as thoughts on existing respiratory aids and technologies. Findings from these interviews were categorised into 5 themes; monitoring and feedback, adaption, routine, motivation and active learning. Based on these findings design characteristics were established and a proof-of-concept developed and preliminarily tested to demonstrate that its core features can be realised. These features include breath-by-breath data acquisition, real-time visual feedback during breathing practice and the capacity for remote monitoring by respiratory therapists. The results of this work indicate that paced breathing can be monitored and shared with patients and that incremental targets for improved performance can be set. It is intended that the outcomes of this work will help facilitate future research into COPD management techniques, reveal future product development opportunities and enable sufferers of COPD to improve their quality of life.
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