It all started when Andrew Lin and Hon Weng Chong, young Australian medical students, decided to enter Microsoft’s Imagine competition, a global student tech competition together with University of Melbourne Computing and Information Systems students, Kim Ramchen and Mahsa Salehi. Calling themselves Team StethoCloud, they designed the prototype and built the vision of an inexpensive smartphone stethoscope that could be used by parents in the developing world to diagnose pneumonia.
Team StethoCloud ended up winning the Australian finals, but more importantly, they went on to apply for a Imagine Cup Grant described as “a three-year, US $3 million competitive grant program that provides students with funding and support to help transform their project into a social enterprise or nonprofit that will address a specific social issue.” They won $75,ooo and their project, that started in the proverbial garage, was on its way to being a real product.
The StethoCloud Team Morphs Its Vision
Although initially imagined as an inexpensive device that parents and other non-medical people in the developing world could use to diagnose pneumonia, their concept morphed into a larger vision. Now they speak of using StethoCloud to diagnose more respiratory conditions (asthma and heart failure in addition to pneumonia) and they are no longer singularly focused on the developing world.
In fact, Andrew tells me he will soon be moving to the center of the US tech universe, Silicon Valley together with co-founder Hon. They plan to go for FDA approval so they can market this as a Class II medical device to consumers—one segment of which is what I call Dr. Mommy—a parent that wants to be able to start the diagnostic and perhaps treatment process at home without having to get up in the middle of the night and physically go to the doctor’s office.
The StethoCloud consists of three components: a small stethoscope that hooks into a smart phone, a smart phone app that digitizes the breath sounds, and “deep learning algorithms” that can analyze the breath sounds and send a suggested diagnosis and treatment plan back to the Stethocloud app. They are currently working on getting the stethoscope into production.
They have finished up their first pilot in the Royal Children’s Hospital of Australia that allowed them to prove that it would work in a hospital. It also allowed them to pair more than 1000 recorded breath sound with tags containing information about each patient (e.g., diagnosis, imaging results, demographics). Andrew tells me he has a number other pilots lined up over the next number of months, including one at Harvard, one in India, and a few more in Australia.
Watch the Video to Learn More:
Do-It-Yourself Healthcare. What Do You Think?
I am a big fan of these new tools being developed that support DIY (do it yourself) healthcare. As I mention in the video, there is nothing magical about learning to do simple diagnostics. Doctors, like myself, are ordinary people who were trained to use these tools. I believe that consumers can also learn to use them particularly since they are now supported by computerized databases and learning algorithms that replace a doctor’s brain and medical training. Of course, we are going to need to prove that consumers can use these tools safely and effectively. That is why pilots, clinical trials and FDA approval are so important.
Please leave a comment and let us know what you think. Thanks!