Updated 04 September 2017

This app can diagnose your illness by listening to your cough

A new smartphone app, able to diagnose an illness such as asthma or pneumonia based on the sound of your cough, is set to drastically change healthcare when it launches in 2016.

A new app, currently being developed by a team of Australian researchers, will enable you to simply cough into a smartphone to determine what illness you have.

Around the world, a cough is one of the most common reasons why we seek medical attention, especially when it comes to our children. A cough can often be caused by asthma, pneumonia and other serious respiratory illnesses. 

As a direct result of this, the team from the University of Queensland have decided to develop a smartphone app, known as ResApp, that doctors can use to quickly and cheaply diagnose common respiratory illnesses. By doing so, the team hopes to ease the strain on healthcare systems, the university's website explains.

University of Queensland Associate Professor Udantha Abeyratne first started developing the technology in 2009 association with the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation which funded the project. Prof. Abeyratne explains:

“The technology is based on the premise that cough and breathing sounds carry vital information on the state of the respiratory tract.”

The app, known as ResApp, utilises an automated algorithm (formula) to determine what illness you may be suffering from. 9 to 5 Mac explains that it identifies the unique "sound signature" of a number of different coughs. The patient can cough into a microphone up to 2 metres away from the app.

ResApp can also determine the severity of the illness and was shown to be 90% accurate during a proof of concept test, The Australian explains. Tony Keating, CEO and Managing Director for ResApp adds that the product had a 96% accuracy rate when testing for pneumonia and 90% when testing for asthma:

"Our levels of accuracy are comparable not just to a doctor listening to a stethoscope but a doctor listening to a stethoscope then sending you off to an X-ray, looking at that those X-rays and even looking at the response to antibiotics for example to get a final clinical diagnosis.”

Keating believes that with rapid advances in smartphone technology, ResApp and other TeleHealth services will begin to play a much larger role in healthcare in the near future. He adds that ResApp should be available for use in 2016.

Read more:

Identify your child's cough

5 of the weirdest things to cause a cough

5 apps to help you sleep


How smartphones are revolutionising eye care in Africa

Image: Male doctor in surgery using mobile phone from Shutterstock


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Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

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