Coughing into your cell phone could soon save you a trip to the doctor's office. Thanks to software currently being developed by Star Analytical Services, people may soon be able to install an app that can diagnose cold, flu, pneumonia or other respiratory diseases by analyzing the sound of your cough.
The premises of the software is simple: Trained health workers are already able to distinguish cough types by sound, so why not create software that does the same?
If the idea is successful, it could save patients across the world a trip to the doctor's office. Instead, they could simply cough into their cell phone and receive a diagnosis a few seconds later.
Doctors generally classify coughs as wet or dry, with a subcategory of productive or nonproductive, a reference to the presence or production of mucous in the lungs. Most health care professionals can distinguish between the two kinds, and each kind gives subtle hints about whether a person has a bacterial or viral infection. Scientists think there is much more information hidden in coughs though, and are trying to tease out that information by analyzing specific sounds inside coughs.
"We are relying on doctors and nurses with good old technology from the 19th century" Suzanne Smith of Star tells Discovery News. "Why haven't we been measuring coughs?"
The software would compare one recording to a database of cough samples that contain the sounds of all known respiratory diseases from people of both genders, and various ages and weights. The researchers anticipate needing about 1,000 recordings for the software to be truly effective.
Although there will certainly be circumstances under which you'd prefer coughing into your cell phone to get an educated guess over visiting to your doctor and paying to be told you simply need to rest, nonetheless, some may also find it somewhat uncanny to have your phone diagnosing whether you are healthy or not. We probably still have to get used to the idea that computers are the new experts.