While diagnostic spirometers aren’t terribly expensive, millions of people throughout the world that suffer from asthma, COPD, and other lung conditions simply can’t afford them. Yet, monitoring one’s lung function is important for tracking the progression of disease and to help doctors adjust therapies. Luckily, researchers at the University of Washington have developed a way of using just about any phone, not just smartphones, to fairly accurately measure lung function.
The researchers initially created a smartphone app that recorded the sound of a person exhaling and converted that into estimates of forced vital capacity (FVC) and peak expiratory flow (PEF). Remarkably, the software did quite well in comparison to clinical spirometers. The only problem though was that poor people in poor places don’t usually have smartphones, but rely on older “feature” phones that the rest of us remember from decades past.
The team set up a phone number that a person can call using just about any phone, do the breathing exercise, and receive results in the form of a text message soon after hanging up. The researchers tested the quality of the SpiroCall technology and in an initial study showed that the data correlated quite well to professional spirometers, coming in within 6.2% of the “official” numbers.
Here’s a University of Washington video showing off the SpiroCall: