New health sensing tool measures lung function over a phone call, from anywhere in the world - Dream Health

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Saturday 14 May 2016

New health sensing tool measures lung function over a phone call, from anywhere in the world


SpiroCall – A New Health Sensing Tool – Measures Lung Function

Several people in the developing world suffering from asthma, cystic fibrosis or any other chronic lung ailment have no way to know how well their lungs tend to function beyond a clinic or doctor’s visit. However, most of them have access to a phone and though it could be a 10 year old flip phone or a common village landline rather than the latest app-driven smartphone.

This is the reason why the University of Washington computer science and engineering and electrical engineering researchers had created SpiroCall which is a new health sensing tool that can precisely measure lung function over an ordinary phone call. At the Association for Computing Machinery’s CHI 2016 conference in San Jose, California, a paper to be presented in May will show that the results of SpiroCall came within 6.2% of the results from clinical spirometers utilised in hospitals and doctor’s offices which meant that it meets the standards of the medical community accuracy.

Washington Research Foundation Endowed Professor of Computer Science & Engineering and Electrical Engineering at the UW, Shwetak Patel stated that they wanted to be capable of measuring lung function on any type of phone one may encounter around the world, smartphone, dumb phones, landlines, pay phone. With SpiroCall, one can call a 1-800 number, blow into the phone and utilise the telephone network to test your lung function.

Device to Monitor Ailment At Home

Researcher from the UW’s UbiComp Lab had introduced SpiroSmart in 2012 that enabled people to monitor their lung function by blowing into their smartphones. Patients tend to take a deep breath in and breathe out as hard and fast as they can till they cannot breathe out any more. The microphone of the phone senses sound and pressure from the outbreath and directs the data to a central server that utilises machine learning processes, converting the data into average measurements of lung function.

Lead author Mayank Goel, a UW computer science and engineering doctoral student stated that people have to manage chronic lung disease for their entire lives, so there is a real need to have a device which permits patients to precisely monitor their ailment at home without the need of constantly visiting a medical clinic which could be far off and time consuming.

System Works on Any Phone/Anywhere in the World

The team had collected data from over 4,000 patients, over the last four years, who had visited the clinics in Seattle and Tacoma as well as in Bangladesh and India, where the clinicians had measured lung function by using SpiroSmart as well as a commercial spirometer. The comparative data has enhanced the performance of the machine learning, laying the groundwork for the current FDA clearance process of the team.

However in surveying patients from India and Bangladesh, the team recognized that a significant percentage did not own smartphone and were unable to use SpiroSmart in their own home which happened to be the main goal of the project. The team had also realized that the only sensor used was the microphone that all the phones tend to have and hence they decided to create a system which would work with any phone, anywhere in the world wherein the patient can use a call-in service.

SpiroCall tends to transmit the gathered audio using a standard phone channel against a sound file which is transferred by a smartphone app over the internet. The team integrated various regression processes to provide reliable lung function estimate in spite of the degraded audio quality

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