Apple is launching a virtual study to test the effectiveness of its devices in managing asthma symptoms. The study, which will be conducted by the University of California Irvine and will include Anthem patients, will test whether the Apple Watch and iPhone can help people better self-manage their asthma.

A preview of the app that will be used in the study. Photo credit: Apple

Anthem is sponsoring the study and also contributed to the study design, while software company CareEvolution will build the study app and enable the collection of data.

The two-year, randomized controlled trial will enroll 900 patients from Anthem-affiliated plans who have been diagnosed with asthma. Participants will receive a Beddit Sleep Monitor and an Apple Watch.

They will also have access to a digital health tool that includes symptom and trigger tracking. Participants will receive alerts based on their activity, heart rate and blood oxygen. They can also refill prescriptions and access educational modules through the app, building on Apple’s acquisition of asthma-monitoring startup Tueo Health last year.

“Personalized medicine and improving the health of populations are based on similar principles. The human body contains critical information – data – necessary to diagnose and treat our patients,” UC Irvine Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. Steve Goldstein said in a news release. “Public-private collaborations like this one with UCI, Anthem and Apple, are fueled by the passion to serve and shared entrepreneurial spirit, and are helping us establish new standards of whole-person care for our patients.”

The study appears to build on Apple’s decision to include a blood oxygen monitor in the latest iteration of its Apple Watch. While this isn’t necessarily new to the wearables category — both Fitbit and Garmin currently include SpO2 sensors in their devices — Apple could put data from the study toward developing a potential asthma control feature.

A secondary goal for the study is to see if the data collected from these devices could be used to prevent asthma attacks or serve as potential digital biomarkers.

Photo credit: Andrey Suslov, Getty Images

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