Insight Health: Breathe into your Phone

Submitted on Tuesday, 15/06/2021

Breathe into your Phone – a new way to monitor Covid-19 patients at home, is another of Insight’s Covid related projects. Led by Professor Madeleine Lowery and Dr Emer Doheny, it was awarded €143,685 through the COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Programme in 2020.

When someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and they are self-isolating, it is important to know if and when their symptoms get worse and they may need to get to hospital.
This project aims to develop a system where COVID-19 patients who are isolating at home can use the microphone on their smartphone to record their breathing. This information will then be available to doctors, who can assess the patient’s condition. The software will also automatically predict and signal if a patient is at risk and in need of hospitalisation.
The technology will integrate with the existing remote monitoring system used by Irish hospitals, and it will add the function of measuring breathing rate, which is not currently supported.
The project at UCD will develop software that analyses a patient’s breathing rate when they record their breathing using their mobile phone. This information is useful for doctors to monitor. It will also develop software to analyse the breathing pattern and automatically predict and signal if the patient needs to go to hospital.
By providing a method to remotely and accurately monitor breathing rate in self-isolating COVID-19 patients and a tool to predict hospitalisation, the research will improve patient care, reduce hospital visits (and the associated infection risk) and allow more effective allocation of hospital resources.

Louise and Gráinne spoke to Dr Emer Doheny about the project. Dr Doheny is a senior research fellow with Insight, and the Neuromuscular Systems Research group. Her research focuses on applying signal processing methods to inertial sensor data for sleep, respiration, and activity monitoring, with applications including neuromuscular disease management and sports training tools.