‘Doctor in your pocket’: Why your phone could listen to your heart

The tech giant revealed research into its “digital stethoscope” project as part of its Check Up event, which also showed off its plans to capture utlrasound-like images of unborn infants using phones and a way to assess diabetes with photos of patients’ eyes. Google’s health announcements come just weeks after the sudden deaths of cricketer Shane Warne and Senator Kimberley Kitching by apparent heart attacks and as health experts call for more Australians to take proactive steps to maintain their health.Google Health AI head Dr Greg Corrado introduced the tech giant’s “new area of ​​research” at the event, saying researchers discovered a smartphone’s microphone, when pressed to the chest, could identify telltale noises made by the heart that could indicate heart disease. Unhealthy heart vales often made “whooshing or rubbing” sounds, he said, which the technology could identify.“We’re currently in the early stages of clinical study testing but we hope that our work can empower people to use the smartphone phone as an additional tool for accessible health development,” he said.“There are still considerable open questions about whether this will all work but under ideal conditions it does appear that we’re able to use the kinds of microphones that are in smartphones to be able to differentiate healthy heart sounds from heart sounds that might be of concern.” Dr Corrado said the technology, if proven accurate, could help more people to seek medical help for heart disease before symptoms appeared. Google also revealed it was developing a way to perform ultrasounds with a smartphone by “making a simple pattern of sweeps across the mother’s belly” and using artificial intelligence to interpret the results, and would embark on further research with Northwestern Medicine in the US. Other Google Health projects unveiled included wearable “tags” to monitor patients’ recovery from knee-replacement surgeries, and a way to identify diabetes-related diseases from photos of eyes that Dr Corrado said would be investigated in clinical research with EyePACS and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.Google chief health officer Dr Karen DeSalvo said the developments were part of a push to use artificial intelligence, machine-learning and other technological solutions to solve problems for medical professionals and patients.While the advances were not designed to provide phone users with a diagnosis, she said, they “erred on the side of giving people signals” to seek further help.“There’s a doctor-in-your-pocket model here,” she said.“It’s pretty clear that when given the opportunity, people are very interested in having their own insights and information.”Interest in preventive heart checks has risen since the sudden deaths of two prominent Australians earlier this month, and cardiol ogist Dr Warrick Bishop said they should serve as a wake-up call for more preventive screening and treatment for heart issues.“We have to take a proactive stance around heart attack if we are serious about curbing the sheer number of cases and with it the many lives lost, often too early,” Dr Bishop said.

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