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Developing a smartphone app to monitor lung health

Here's an interesting mobile health app in development. Researchers at the University of Washington are collaborating with Seattle Children's Hospital to devise a smartphone app to check the health of your lungs when you breathe out at your handset.

The app could prove useful to patients suffering asthma, cystic fibrosis or other lung conditions. Developers say frequent testing at home could detect problems earlier, potentially avoiding emergency room visits and hospitalization. Technology Review reports:

Recently, a group at Shwetak Patel's lab at the University of Washington figured out how to measure exhaled breaths using the microphone on a smartphone.

The SpiroSmart app estimates the volume of air exhaled by the sound waves recorded as you breathe out. The goal was to create a home lung health test, like a pocket glucose meter, [lead researcher Shwetak Patel, PhD,] explained in a press release.  In experiments with the iPhone 4S, the system seemed reliable and comparable to home spirometry tests. The group presented that at the UbiComp 2012 conference in September last year.

The team is now adapting this concept--reading lung function from recorded audio of deep breaths out--to create a system that could turn any phone into a reliable indicator of lung function.

But don't expect to find the app in the iTunes store anytime soon. Researchers say more testing is needed before the app will be available for consumer use.

Previously: Stanford AIM Lab launches patient exam iPad app, Stanford medical residents launch iPhone app to help physicians keep current on research and  Stanford-developed iPARS app available for download

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