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StethoCloud Project Diagnoses Pneumonia On the Cheap 55

Posted by timothy
from the changing-the-shape-of-the-bottleneck dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "According to the World Health Organization, nearly one in five childhood deaths worldwide is caused by pneumonia, each year killing an estimated 1.4 million children under the age of 5, more than any other disease. Even in developed countries, trained healthcare professionals have trouble accurately diagnosing pneumonia because diagnosis comes after the onset of symptoms, which often must become severe before the condition is recognized as life threatening. Now Singularity Hub reports on StethoCloud, a cloud-based service that turns a Windows smartphone into a digital stethoscope. Using a specially designed microphone called a 'stethomic' that plugs into the smartphone's audio jack, and an app that guides users through the proper method for listening to a patient's breathing, early testing shows promise at accurately detecting the disease. Currently, the group is working with the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne to develop research protocols for field testing and they've sent the stethomics to hospitals in Ghana, Malaysia, and Mozambique. By next year, the team hopes the device will be in use in areas that need it most. The team expects its stethoscope to cost around $15 to $20, significantly cheaper than current digital stethoscopes in the market which tend to cost hundreds of dollars. The team argues that the cost of the phone itself is negligible, as smartphones are quickly becoming common even in the developing countries where childhood pneumonia is most prevalent."
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StethoCloud Project Diagnoses Pneumonia On the Cheap

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  • The project looks extremely interesting and useful, but I don't get why they wish to base it on "the cloud". Does their algorithm really require a centralized server to compute a result? Seems to me that would prohibit the application's use in areas where an internet link is not available.

    • Re:Why cloud? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tenex (766192) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:57AM (#41128683)

      According to article, yes I admit to having read it, they have a stand-alone java based version that runs on just about anything; the 'cloud' version is constantly collecting historical data that allows the diagnostic algorithms to learn and improve themselves. I'm not sure that last part is actually true but it is a nice thought.

    • by vlm (69642)

      The project looks extremely interesting and useful, but I don't get why they wish to base it on "the cloud". Does their algorithm really require a centralized server to compute a result? Seems to me that would prohibit the application's use in areas where an internet link is not available.

      Its all about the liability and malpractice. Dr. VLM misdiagnosed my kid? Cool, lets bankrupt him. "The cloud" misdiagnosed my kid? .... crickets ... Sounds like the designers are in .au and the buyers are in Africa so plus or minus extradition treaties etc they're pretty safe.

      Its not that they're evil, its just economics. Lets say 99% is a realistic goal, so 1% of the time you'll be sued for $10M. That means you need to charge everyone $100K just to break even on insurance. Unless you can put all the

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "The cloud" misdiagnosed my kid? .... crickets ... Sounds like the designers are in .au and the buyers are in Africa so plus or minus extradition treaties etc they're pretty safe.

        That's not really how it works. The provider making the diagnosis, regardless of the tools used to make that diagnosis, is legally responsible for that diagnosis until such time that the patient's management is transferred to another provider. If treatment is initiated by *any* provider, then that treatment-initiating provider is responsible for both the treatment AND the validity of the diagnosis s/he is treating.

      • Doctors frequently consult other doctors. This is so they make less mistakes. Think of the cloud option as a way of consulting with a "BigAssLibraryOfBreathingSounds" that have been filtered by experts in lung disease. Now the doctor still makes the final call (incidentally it's their insurance) but now they get the help of consultants around the world.

  • Windows Phone (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vettemph (540399) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:39AM (#41128603)

    Why develop it for a phone that nobody uses (or wants)?

    • by vlm (69642)

      Why develop it for a phone that nobody uses (or wants)?

      The medical market understands high cost of sales more than it understands high cost of devices.

      The team expects its stethoscope to cost around $15 to $20, significantly cheaper than current digital stethoscopes in the market which tend to cost hundreds of dollars.

      I recently read MS spends $500 on advertising for each phone sold.

    • The app does little more than guide the user where and how to take samples. The rest is done "in the cloud". It should be trivial to port it.
    • by wwphx (225607)

      Why develop it for a phone that nobody uses (or wants)?

      Because it was a contest sponsored by Microsoft using MS technology?

  • one of my kids had pnemonia and one of the best pediatricians in NYC couldn't diagnose it for a few days because the exact symptoms didn't appear for a few days after the fever first started. at first he thought it was a virus

    • by tbird81 (946205)

      The thing is, it most likely was a virus initially. The runny nose, cough, fever, that's the virus.

      It might well have turned into a bacterial pneumonia after that. It might also have just been a viral pneumonia.

      The important thing is actually how well the child is. If they've got a patch of small pneumonia which might have showed up on x-ray, and they get better by themselves there's no harm done. More harm if they had the (albeit low) radiation from a CXR and then strong antibiotics.

      If the kids still feedi

    • by wwphx (225607)
      We were staying with friends near Denver, and Dave came to me at like 12:30 in the morning saying I had to take him to the hospital, he was having serious pain in the back not far from his heart. Dave can walk off kidney stones, so it has to be pretty serious pain for him to complain. At the ER they find nothing wrong with his heart, his lungs look good, everything looks OK. But he still has this pain and a persistent cough. They put him on antibiotics just in case, later do an angiogram, everything is
  • They make it seem like this is some revolutionary new way to identify pneumonia and is better than anything we currentally have. But it just turns a cheap microphone into a crappy stethoscope.

    • by tg123 (1409503)

      They make it seem like this is some revolutionary new way to identify pneumonia and is better than anything we currentally have. But it just turns a cheap microphone into a crappy stethoscope.

      You forgot to add the Million dollars of Doctors training also connected to said scope and its not just a crappy stethoscope it is a measuring device used day to day by medical professionals.

      This app turns a (smart? its running windows) mobile and crappy microphone into Expert recommendations this means you and I could diagnose this condition as well as a medical professional with years of training.

  • Good Stuff!
    Smartphones moving towards a Tricoder?

  • Even more low tech are the HeroRATS, originally trained to sniff out landmines in Mozambique, now being trained to detect the presence of TB in sputim samples. Sometimes a low tech solution works when a high tech solution falls short. However, since pneumonia is fluid on the lungs and not always caused by a single bacteria, maybe the high tech solution of a stethoscope is better in this case.
  • Can be augmented by parallel advances in food & fresh water distribution so we're not keeping more citizens of developing nations alive to starve later.
    • by amorsen (7485)

      World population growth is currently 1% a year. If humanity cannot get 1% better at growing food every year, we deserve to die out.

      Growth rate is falling, so it will get even easier in the future.

  • What about hippa that data better be encrypted

  • The team expects the stethoscope to cost..... WHAT...

    http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/06/stehoclou/ [techcrunch.com]

    Nevermind the cost of the phone is many times more.
    For the same price a classic stethoscope could be had.

    Better to have developed a HTML5 trainer
    That can run on any phone, laptop, desktop....

  • Impressive to read that folks are developing a digital listening device for the chest of children to aid in the diagnosis of pneumonia. But what isn't shared here is that listening (or "auscultation") is quite inaccurate for the diagnosis of pneumonia when done by expert humans called doctors. Maybe a machine could do better, I don't know. But just aspiring to be as good as a human doctor's ears is not good enough. --JSt
  • This is only one of many similar add-ons to a smart phone, where a small investment in extra hardware turns a smart phone into some piece of lab or medical equipment. I can recall seeing articles about dermascopes and microscopes as just two examples.

    So with just one smart phone and maybe $150 a rural doctor could have a small portable laboratory. It is curious that they've chosen a Windows phone to work on. You'd think Android phones would be much more common in isolated areas.

    Here's one for the self diag

  • $20 for the stethoscope mic. $600 for the smartphone. How is that cheap? it's only cheap when you add more apps & plugin devices to the phone.

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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