People suffering from asthma or other chronic lung problems are typically only able to get a measure of their lung function at the doctor's office a few times a year by blowing into a specialized piece of equipment. More frequent testing at home could detect problems earlier, potentially avoiding emergency room visits and hospitalization.
A new tool from researchers at the University of Washington, UW Medicine and Seattle Children's hospital lets people monitor their lung function at home or on the go simply by blowing into their smartphones. A paper presented this month at the Association for Computing Machinery's International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing showed results that came within 5 percent of commercial devices, meaning it already meets the medical community's standards for accuracy.
"There's a big need in the pulmonary community to make testing cheaper and more convenient," said lead researcher Shwetak Patel, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering. "Other people have been working on attachments for the mobile phone that you can blow into. We said, 'Let's just try to figure out how to do it with the microphone that's already there.'"
A few existing smartphone apps claim to measure lung function, but they are poor mimics of an office test. For example, one app measures how loud the exhaled breath sounds, which strongly depends on how close to the mouth a person holds the phone. None of them is recommended for medical use.
Home testing systems are now becoming available, but they cost at least a few hundred dollars, can be difficult to use, and patients have to have the equipment with them to take a test.
Last year Patel's group used a smartphone to track a person's coughs throughout the day. Now his graduate students Eric Larson in electrical engineering and Mayank Goel in computer science and engineering have led a 2.5-year project tackling the harder problem of how to ge
|Contact: Hannah Hickey|
University of Washington