A self-administered, five-minute voice analysis test could change the Coronavirus diagnosis game.
‘Under the weather’ has a sound, so does laryngitis, the common cold, and yes, so does COVID-19. Researchers believe that doctors can use AI to analyze voice and “screen patients for potential coronavirus symptoms,” and the Doctors at Allegheny Health Network are willing to try.
Allegheny Health and the tech startup Telling.ai have teamed up “by developing a voice analysis test to screen for a variety of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.”
The test itself was developed with help from the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science and Language Technology Institute and can “identify subtle changes in the voice that suggest something is wrong.” AI can match signals to a label for a specific condition and doctors can then interpret the data to suggest diagnosis, treatment, and type of care.
Allegheny Heath Network’s Dr. Anil Singh elaborates, “If there was a way to predict by just the voice where this individual could go, that could be pretty dramatic in the management of these patients prior to them ever ending up in a hospital.”
Dr Singh clarifies that while this AI analysis is promising to determine if patients have a respiratory illness and need additional follow-up, it would not be used to decisively diagnose COVID-19.
More this voice test would assist in the recovery of coronavirus patients, letting medical staff monitor progress in real-time from the hospital, while patients are safely in quarantine.
Prior to the pandemic, the test was used to screen for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
With a few short prompts for “ahhhs”, deep breathing, and combined with “a passage that includes all 44 phonemes in the English language,” the preliminary (130 patients) study found “a strong correlation between the results of a pulmonary function test — the “gold standard” for diagnosing COPD, Singh said — and the results of voice analysis.”
The study is currently being expanded to 500 patients or more, and will include those who “are receiving a physician-ordered test for COVID-19 at an Allegheny Health Network test site.”
To be sure this AI voice analysis is accurately screening for coronavirus symptoms, patients who test positive for COVID-19 will report their symptoms, and provide additional voice samples over 30 days so researchers can better understand “how changes in the voice correlate with symptoms or visits to an emergency room.”
A clinical trial is being designed for FDA approval as Dr. Singh and Telling.ai continue their study.
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