Hugh Pickens writes writes: "According to the World Health Organization, nearly one in five childhood deaths worldwide is caused by pneumonia, each year killing an estimated 1.4 million children under the age of 5, more than any other disease. Even in developed countries, trained healthcare professionals have trouble accurately diagnosing pneumonia because diagnosis comes after the onset of symptoms, which often must become severe before the condition is recognized as life threatening so early detection has the potential to save many lives. Now Singularity Hub reports on StethoCloud, a cloud-based service that turns a Windows smartphone into a digital stethoscope. Using a specially designed microphone called a “stethomic” that plugs into the smartphone’s audio jack and an app that guides users through the proper method for listening to a patient’s breathing, early testing shows promise at accurately detecting the disease. Currently, the group is working with the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne to develop research protocols for field testing and they’ve sent the stethomics to hospitals in Ghana, Malaysia, and Mozambique so by next year, the team hopes the device will be in use in areas that need it most. The team expects its stethoscope to cost around $15 to $20, significantly cheaper than current digital stethoscopes in the market which tend to cost hundreds of dollars and the team argues that the cost of the phone itself is somewhat negligible, as smartphones are quickly becoming more common even in the developing countries where childhood pneumonia is most prevalent. Because of the app’s algorithms that process breathing patterns, StethoCloud could be used by someone with even minimal medical training."
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