Lung Function Measured With a Phone Call
Chronic lung conditions affect tens of millions of men, women, and children all over the world -- often in countries and regions where poverty is common and the availability of treatment for such medical conditions is sparse. In fact, cost and usability issues around spirometers -- devices that measure levels of lung function in patients -- often makes it difficult for doctors and other care providers to see and work with even a fraction of the patients who need that very equipment.
Now a team of computer science and engineering researchers from the University of Washington have devised a new tool that, the researchers say, can accurately measure lung function over a mobile phone. The methodology is, in a word, brilliant: A patient takes a deep breath and exhales into a phone's microphone as hard and as fast as possible. Sensing sound and pressure, the mic sends the data to a central server, where algorithms convert that data into standard measurements of lung function.
"We had to account for the fact that the sound quality you get over a phone line is worse," said co-author Elliot Saba, a UW electrical engineering doctoral student. "You can imagine how listening to someone play a song over a phone line would sound compared to listening to it on your music app. There's a similar difference with a spirometry test."