Cough tracking is a diagnostic tool that may help quantify a symptom that often requires guesswork on the part of the clinician and patient. We explore a lesson about the value of cough tracking we learned from a pandemic movie.
So, what could there be to learn about cough tracking in a pandemic movie? There’s a brief scene from Pandemic: How to prevent an outbreak on Netflix that repeats itself millions of times every day across the world.
Doctor: “How much less is your coughing than before?”
Patient *blank stare* then: “I only cough at night.”
The doctor can’t do much with this answer, so he answers for her, using confirmation bias.
Watch the clip here.
What a Pandemic Movie Can Teach Us on Cough Tracking
This scene is so relevant because this is how healthcare professionals make many clinical decisions everywhere. They base their decisions on a (supposed) improvement in cough, but the clinician doesn’t know if the patient’s cough has improved or not.
This shouldn’t be the case, Right?. In modern healthcare, clinicians measure everything (pulse, oxygen, respiration). But one of the main factors driving the clinician’s decision-making, a cough, is unmeasured. When a clinician can’t measure, they guess.
Unlike weight, temperature, blood pressure, or pulse, a cough is poorly and infrequently measured. Not because it is unimportant, quite the contrary, but because it is difficult to measure.
Additionally, patients can’t always correctly convey cough details. That’s why a cough worse at night is one of the most common complaints a doctor hears.