Gov Innovation| Asiacloudforum
A cloud-powered stethoscope that can help health workers diagnose early stages of respiratory illness was developed by Australian students who participated in the second annual Microsoft Imagine Cup Grants program. By connecting a stethoscope to a cell phone, a community health worker or unskilled administrator can transmit diagnostic information into a Windows Azure-based cloud service. StethoCloud’s software then analyzes a patient’s breathing for patterns that indicate the earliest stages of pneumonia or asthma.
Hon Weng Chong, founder of Australia’s Team StethoCloud, is now a new doctor who has always had an interest in both health and technology. He said at the time he heard about the Imagine Cup, he was beginning his pediatric rotation at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and learned pneumonia was the leading cause of child deaths worldwide. So he decided to tackle the disease for the Imagine Cup, which calls students to tackle real world social issues through technology.
“Respiratory rates are the most sensitive indicators of the disease. But they’re also one of the last vital sign measures in medicine that haven’t become widely automated,” Chong said. “The only machines that do automate the process are extremely expensive.”
From prototype to commercialization
As part of the project, Chong and his teammates prototyped a low-cost digital stethoscope from off-the-shelf components. Compatibility with smartphones makes it easy for the devices to connect to the internet and therefore the team’s powerful algorithms that could provide clinical decision support to health workers worldwide.
Chong said the US$75,000 Imagine Cup grant will support their research and development and will help determine if StethoCloud is in fact an accurate way to diagnose pneumonia and asthma. The team is about to start clinical trials of StethoCloud at The Royal Children’s Hospital. It could take months to get a statistically significant sample set. If all goes well, they’ll shift gears from R&D to commercialization. They’re already in talks with regulatory agencies around the world about manufacturing their digital stethoscope.