If anything, the pandemic years of 2020-21 have taught us important lessons. One of those is that we are woefully unprepared for public health crises. Cough sound databases could help change that.

Granted, we seem to do well on an individual level when diagnosing and treating health conditions. However, on a large scale, we may as well be back in the stone age.

We are now finding the incredible value of having access to databases containing detailed information about coughs. These can be useful for COVID-19 specifically and respiratory ailments in general. By analyzing this cough sound data, healthcare professionals can understand respiratory health conditions more deeply.

Coswara: A Cough Sound Database

Coswara is an initial effort toward creating a database of respiratory data related to COVID-19. Researchers around the globe built this database in part in response to the shortcomings of the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test. Despite serving as the gold standard diagnostic tool in the fight against the pandemic, unfortunately, the RT-PCR test comes with its own set of challenges in implementation on a large scale:

  1. RT-PCR testing is expensive;
  2. The test uses valuable time and resources;
  3. The test tends to be uncomfortable for patients.

Because of these hurdles, RT-PCR testing is likely not the best way to test for and take measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for our ever-expanding population.

In contrast, Coswara is a crowdsourced, open-access, sophisticated online database of cough sounds. This database can be easily used by anyone, anywhere in the world. By leveraging and improving upon this type of technology, we will overcome the issues created by COVID-19. Specifically, we will soon analyze cough sounds and accurately diagnose respiratory conditions remotely and quickly on a large scale. Thus, enabling us to triage patients more effectively.

HYFE: Anther Method of Analyzing Cough Sounds at Home

Building upon phenomenal early efforts at detecting cough sounds such as Coswara cough sound databases, the Hyfe app is making waves in the world of cough analysis. 

The application can effectively capture and record cough data in real-time through a smartphone. Expert researchers and physicians can then analyze this data. In turn, these professionals can make recommendations about treatment, quarantining, and other options as appropriate.

The Hyfe app is a sophisticated and effective tool for self-monitoring and tracking coughs. Specifically, it provides a way to effectively gather clinical data, diagnose conditions, and make recommendations to patients in a cost-effective manner.

Cough sound as from database
The waveform of a cough sound

A Healthier, More Empowered World

On an even larger scale than just COVID-19 or respiratory illness, developments such as Coswara and the Hyfe app should logically lead us to a healthier, more empowered world overall. 

Soon, this technology will improve and expand to capture data on other types of illness. Moreover, this technology will benefit patients as they will save time they would otherwise be using up in frequent in-person doctor visits. Instead, they will be able to obtain a preliminary diagnosis through a trusted mobile app. This data will then help with decisions of what the next best step is in managing their symptoms. Most importantly, a technology like this puts the power back in the hands of patients, giving them autonomy over their health decisions.

The COVID-19 pandemic caught us off-guard. But, unfortunately, likely, we will eventually encounter new diseases which will plague our world again in the future. 

Taking preventative public health steps such as creating effective diagnostic databases is one of the best things to prepare for this inevitability.

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