Almost 15 per cent of the world lives with respiratory problems—could ResApp help monitor and treat these people effectively?

sickness app-boss magazineAn exciting new smartphone diagnostic app allows someone with a respiratory problem to cough into their smartphone and receive a diagnosis. This cough diagnostic app, from ResApp Health, is the first of its kind, greatly expanding the potential for mobile healthcare.

Healthcare professionals have been quick to adopt smartphone apps for increased productivity while they’re on the go, accessing research data, organising notes, or investigating drug interactions. This new app will aid both physicians and patients with the diagnosis of respiratory diseases, the leading cause of doctor visits.

App Developer Targets Worldwide Problem of Respiratory Diseases
Dr. Udantha Aberyratne, from the University of Queensland’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, has focused his extensive research on signal processing and medical instrumentation. He identifies respiratory diseases as a critical problem worldwide; pneumonia alone is responsible for the deaths of one million children in remote regions of the world. The World Health Organization states that hundreds of millions of people worldwide, 15 per cent of the world’s population, are afflicted with chronic respiratory or pulmonary diseases.

The Learning Algorithm
Dr. Aberyratne’s goal was to develop an app for mobile devices that would permit patients to cough into the phone, which would then diagnose the problem. A machine learning algorithm uses the sound of the cough to diagnose both the medical issue and the severity. To date, the algorithm has successfully diagnosed asthma and pneumonia.

Clinical Trials and Results
The first study is currently being held at Joondalup Health Campus in Perth, Australia, with 150 patients enrolled; it has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The second round of clinical trials has been accelerated and will be held at Princess Margaret Hospital, with a total target enrollment of 400 patients. The trials are testing and improving the app’s software and diagnostic capabilities. The University of Queensland is analysing the data.

Tony Keating, ResApp’s CEO and Managing Director, reports that, “It’s been 96 per cent accurate (for pneumonia). That’s as high as going through an x-ray.”

Potential Markets
There are a number of markets for this diagnostic technology, including licensing the app to large providers in the telehealth industry; diagnosis and management at home for those with respiratory diseases, especially those that require constant monitoring; and working with the World Health Organization and others to supply lowcost diagnostic tools for the rampant respiratory illnesses in the developing world.

Mobile Health Technologies Lead the Way in Developing Nations
Mobile health technologies are already making a difference in developing nations. For example, healthcare workers are using mobile devices to perform ultrasounds and conduct eye examinations.

The use of mobile devices is widespread. There is ample reason to believe that a diagnostic app for respiratory diseases would be welcomed and used.

sickness app-boss magazineThe Future of Healthcare Apps
ResApp Health is initially targeting bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and COPD. Future plans focus on FDA approval and the expansion of the diagnostic technology to all respiratory diseases.

The mobile health marketplace is growing fast, expanding to more than 100,000 apps. Market revenue is projected to reach $26 billion by 2017.

Dr. Richard Gliklich, with the venture capital firm General Catalyst Partners, says that investors are looking for apps that have something that more than one of the healthcare stakeholders will be willing to pay for. A diagnostic app that effectively addresses such a widespread problem as respiratory diseases appears to satisfy that criteria.

Potential Challenges
There are potential legal issues, particularly in the U.S. Liability questions for incorrect diagnoses are undecided. Undoubtedly many doctors would resist a process change, but management of large healthcare organizations should be approachable because of the cost savings and preventive health applications. Clinical testing to date has had a high level of correct diagnosis with asthma and pneumonia, but it is unknown if this will prove true with other diseases.

ResApp Health is in the forefront of mobile healthcare with the development of this app that allows someone to receive a diagnosis of a respiratory problem by coughing into a smartphone. This app addresses a worldwide problem with a low-cost, effective solution. There appear to be many valid applications for this technology.