Israeli mHealth startup, Healthymize, has developed an app that monitors a person’s voice and breathing pattern to identify chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The app works by running in the background when the user is speaking on the phone. If the app identifies a negative breathing patter, such as a cough or deterioration in the user’s rate of speech, it sends out an alert to both the user and their medical team.

CEO and Co-founder of Healthymize, Dr Shady Hassan, developed the idea for the app while working as an attending physician at Carmel Hospital in Haifa, Israel where he noticed that COPD patients’ voices improved as they received treatment. This led to him wondering if the reverse would happen if patient’s stopped taking their meds.

In 2015 Dr Hassan met PhD student in electrical engineering, Daniel Aronovich – who would become the CTO of Healthymize – during a hackathon at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The two then started developing the Healthymize app with funding from Tech and Social Entrepreneur, Rafi Gidron – who is now the Healthymize Chairman, as well as the Israel Innovation Authority.

The Healthymize team believe that by effectively monitoring when COPD symptoms begin to flare up they’ll be able to reduce hospitalisation rates and even death. According to Dr Hassan, a 24-hour delay in seeking medical treatment could double their risk of hospitalisation.

“We don’t want patients to get to the hospital. If they do, that’s already too late,” said Dr Hassan in an interview with ISRAEL21c.

The Healthymize runs its initial voice analysis on the user’s smartphone and then sends the data to the cloud for further processing. “We don’t send the recordings themselves in order to preserve a patient’s privacy,” said Aronovich.

“We spoke to COPD physicians around the world, they teach their students to listen to a patient’s voice. If a patient writes an email saying ‘I don’t feel well,’ the doctor picks up the phone right away. So we’re doing what these physicians have been doing for 30 years, just in a more accurate and more scalable way,” said Dr Hassan.

So far the app has been used in pilots in Israel with plans to begin testing in the UK in 2018. According to Dr Hassan, the app will be used via hospitals, insurance companies, home healthcare and telemedicine providers.

Next year they also plan on commercially releasing the app for both Android and Apple devices. Further plans include extending the app’s use for other conditions such as heart disease and mental illness.

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