Interview with Dr. Peter Tinschert, CEO & Co-Founder, Resmonics AG
When they are presented with respiratory disease, physicians listen to the lungs and airways to assess the sound of the patient’s breath and cough. Artificial intelligence now helps patients with respiratory diseases even outside of the doctor’s office: "ResGuard Med" monitors coughing during the night, detects the worsening of symptoms and issues an alert. Aside from chronic conditions, the tool also tracks acute respiratory diseases such as COVID-19.
Dr. Peter Tinschert
In this MEDICA-tradefair.com interview, Dr. Peter Tinschert explains how "ResGuard Med" augments the functions of available medical apps and describes how the software can help people who suffer from respiratory diseases.
Dr. Tinschert, what is "ResGuard Med" by Resmonics?
Dr. Peter Tinschert: It is a software development kit, meaning software that can be integrated into existing medical apps. It contains a sound-based AI module that analyzes data recorded with the smartphone’s built-in microphone. We focus on nocturnal coughing as a result of chronic respiratory diseases and initially put our emphasis on asthma. The AI-based technology helps patients track the symptom severity and predicts disease progression.
What sparked the idea of offering this complementary tool to already available apps?
Tinschert: Compared to already existing analog solutions, we realized that many apps do not add any distinct value as it pertains to treatment. In contrast, a smartphone offers many benefits thanks to its built-in microphone.
A common problem with chronic respiratory diseases is that monitoring is not as frequent as would be desirable. Consequently, an increase in symptoms, so-called exacerbations, are not always detected in time. However, patients benefit greatly if an exacerbation can still be prevented with therapeutics. In the case of asthma, our tool can predict three out of four asthma attacks up to four days in advance based on the cough.
This type of complementary feature makes good sense considering the medical apps market. While there are great mobile apps to enhance chronic respiratory disease self-management available, many companies that target this area have neither the time, budget nor expertise to build their own similar AI-based solution.
How does one use an app with "ResGuard Med"?
Tinschert: Depending on the app and operating system, the nighttime monitoring either must be started manually or it will start automatically. The next morning, a "traffic light system" indicates in either green, yellow, or red how often users coughed at night and warns them to take precautions as the result of changes in the coughing pattern.
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"ResGuard Med" is able to complement existing medical apps to monitor the night-time cough of patients with chronic respiratory diseases. This can close an important gap in the monitoring of these diseases.
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.
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