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AI which counts coughs on your phone will revolutionize medicine, start-up predicts



A start-up which uses an app to monitor coughing and AI to analyze vast amounts of data is predicting it will revolutionize how doctors deal with coughs. A new paper published by Dr. Peter Small, the Chief Medical Officer of Hyfe, predicts that the amount of knowledge about coughing is set to explode through the use of smartphone microphones and artificial intelligence to process recordings of millions of people coughing. Dr. Small says that the ability to monitor coughs, instead of relying on patients’ descriptions, will give doctors a diagnostic tool on a par with the thermometer. In a paper published by the Gainesville, Florida, start-up in the medical journal Lung, Dr. Small says that medicine is on the verge of a whole new era of cough science based – for the first time – on actual real-time data. Using research based on the Hyfe app and the data it collects through users’ phone microphones, he and his fellow researchers concluded that two breakthroughs will be “game-changing.” Dr. Small told SciPlusTech: “There are two breakthroughs, first that using acoustic AI and the ubiquity of high quality microphones we can passively monitor cough continuously for months. “This is game-changing technology because it opens a whole new field of cough science – not unlike when the thermometer was invented to measure and monitor fevers. “The second is the richness of that data – for example, we are learning that cough patterns follow a statistical distribution that will serve as the basis for lots of interesting insights, such as when and what makes an individual’s cough worse.” He predicts that cough-counters, being pioneered by Hyfe, will become a routine part of personal health. The app’s ability to collect vast amounts of anonymous data and process it by AI means doctors are able to learn more about how often people cough, how their coughs are changing, and begin to offer advice on whether it is a sign of serious problems, or can be dealt with by lifestyle changes. It will also be able to work out if changes in weather or environment are linked to changing in coughing behavior, and create a pool of data which will allow new treatments to be created. “Being able to recognize and monitor coughs improves the lives of those with problematic coughs, improves the care of health providers and will make developing new cough medicine easier and faster,” he said. And he even predicted that cough counters could work like step counters. Dr. Small said: “Because cough is normal, but annoying, particularly in the era of Covid, it can be a consequence of behavior and lifestyle. “Step counters remind us to exercise or give us incentive to exercise more. With some cough feedback people can alter their lifestyle when, for example, they see how much less they cough when they avoid exercise in cold environments or when they quit smoking.”