SpiroCall Measures Lung Function Over the Phone

lung function

Researchers have found a way to package the technology of a spirometer into any mobile phone – no app necessary.

A spirometer is a technology-based diagnostic tool that pulmonologists (doctors who specialize in respiratory health, lung disease, etc.) use to analyze lung function. People with asthma, cystic fibrosis, and COPD can benefit from spirometry. These conditions cause congestion in the lungs that can affect breathing. The spirometer can assess breathing patterns to determine the health of your lungs.

A commercial spirometer can cost around $2000. This cost is not affordable in many situations, including in areas where access to healthcare is limited. In 2012, a mobile app was released called SpiroSmart, which worked like a spirometer on smartphones. However, smartphones are not widely accessible in developing countries where air pollution is a major concern. This technology could have a big impact if it were more accessible.

SpiroCall was inspired by SpiroSmart (pictured above), but the difference is that SpiroCall does not require a smartphone. Any mobile phone will do. A patient can dial a toll-free number from any mobile device, and the SpiroCall program will record their breathing and use an algorithm to analyze lung function. In tests, the readings came within 6.2 percent of readings from a commercial spirometer, which is within the accepted margin of error.

According to the researchers at the University of Washington who developed SpiroCall, they tested the program with and without a 3D printed vortex whistle (pictured below) to evaluate the program’s ability to accurately diagnose lung disease. Studies have shown a 93% success rate with SpiroCall, which is comparable to professional spirometers.

Instead of purchasing a full-scale spirometer, hospitals and clinics in impoverished areas can simply utilize SpiroCall. It could also serve pulmonologists who wish to screen patients remotely. One phone call could replace the follow-up office visit for patients with respiratory health problems. Global air pollution is on the rise, further justifying the need for a pocket-sized spirometer that can be used anywhere.

References:

Goel M, Saba E, Stiber M, et al. SpiroCall: Measuring lung function over a phone call (University of Washington, 2016)

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