Does the tool also facilitate a disease assessment from a diagnostic perspective?
Tinschert: Technically, the diagnostic apps sector is an interesting market. However, from a business perspective, it is quite challenging to find a good path in this setting. Our research indicates that we could not deliver a reliable diagnosis just based on the smartphone alone since many built-in microphones do not deliver the necessary high-quality audio. You would have to involve multiple parties, which makes this scenario more complex.
Some companies go this route, but these solutions do not diagnose users directly. Instead, the data is sent to the cloud. Here, it is being analyzed and transmitted to medical providers, who then render a diagnosis. It is debatable whether an AI-based assessment is still necessary at that point, particularly given the low profit margins in the telemedicine market.
We see much greater potential for AI that supports people with common lung diseases. AI systems provide many opportunities, but they are typically not designed to where they are as useful and beneficial in everyday life as we would like. We focused on the application’s suitability for everyday use. This aspect lends itself more for monitoring rather than diagnostic purposes.
Asthma was your initial focus. Does your device also accommodate other diseases?
Tinschert: Since April 2020, we have also been analyzing COVID-19 since a cough is one of the common symptoms of the disease. We teamed up with the Kantonsspital St. Gallen (the main hospital of the Canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland) in a study. We applied our technology to hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and studied whether the cough severity is associated with the disease progression. Our clinical partner has not yet published the findings, but they look promising.
This was a very important moment for us since it showed that our approach is not only successful as it relates to patients in home settings but also works in more challenging circumstances involving a serious condition.
In December 2021, we also partnered with Switzerland’s CSS Insurance and brought the "myCough" app to the German-speaking market. This is a disease agnostic app, meaning it covers different diseases. Patients use the app to assess their cough – whether they suffer from acute bronchitis (chest cold), allergy, COPD, asthma, or a chronic cough.