Diagnosing COPD From Your Voice? New App Makes That a Reality

An estimated more than 30 million Americans currently have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Each year, according to one study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it accounts for as much as $36 billion in U.S. health care spending and related economic costs; it is also the third most common cause of death. But could a new mobile app help improve these statistics by connecting patients to care in the earliest stages of COPD? As mHealth Intelligence first reported, an app developed by Israeli startup Healthymize is aiming to do just that—by detecting signs of COPD in a patient’s voice and breathing patterns, and alerting providers before the situation deteriorates, allowing for early intervention. “We don’t want patients to get to the hospital,” Dr. Shady Hassan, Healthymize’s CEO and cofounder, told news site ISRAEL21c. “If they do, that’s already too late.”

How does the app, which is currently being piloted in Israel and is slated for testing in the United Kingdom in the near future, work? According to its developers, it records a user’s phone conversations, working in the background; the user’s breathing patterns are then analyzed and compared to his or her normal breathing, based on calls recorded earlier. “A negative breathing pattern, a particular kind of cough or deterioration in the caller’s rate of speech” generates an alert to both the patient and his or her health care provider. The earlier a patient accesses treatment, the better his or her chances of recovery are.

In developer Hassan’s view, the app is helping providers out by simply doing some of what they have been trained to do. Physicians “teach their students to listen to a patient’s voice,” he explained to Israel 21c. “If a patient writes an email saying ‘I don’t feel well,’ the doctor picks up the phone right away. So we’re doing what these physicians have been doing for 30 years, just in a more accurate and more scalable way.” Healthymize will officially be released some time in 2018, and will be available for download via Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store. Per Israel 21c, it has already won several awards, including at the Reboot Forum 2017’s Leading Healthcare Initiative Competition, and is seeking additional funding. The app’s developers also see potential for its use in detecting other chronic health conditions in their early stages—among them, cardiac disease and mental health.

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the COPD detection app.

Click here to read the Israel 21c article on the COPD detection app.

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