Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare via phone or online video. It provides patients with convenient and immediate access to high quality care using modern technology. The development of high speed internet and improved mobile networks has led to tremendous growth in the telehealth industry. According to Inc Magazine, telehealth is now the second fastest growing industry in the United States. The benefits of telehealth reach everybody involved in the healthcare system. Patients gain convenience and access to high quality care, while payers, such as employers and insurance companies can more effectively mitigate cost pressures. For the healthcare providers who sit between, telehealth offers increased productivity and flexibility.
A study by Uscher-Pines and Mehrotra in 2014 showed that 31% of visits to a leading telehealth provider were for acute respiratory disease. ResApp’s diagnostic test gives telehealth providers the ability to offer a clinically-validated diagnostic test for respiratory disease during or prior to a consultation. As ResApp’s technology does not require additional hardware beyond a smartphone, telehealth providers can immediately roll-out the test to all of their members.
There are approximately 13.6 million US emergency room visits every year that result in a diagnosis of respiratory disease. 4.6 million of these visits are for children. In the US, 125 million ambulatory care visits are caused by respiratory disease, and ResApp estimates that globally this number is over 700 million.
Used as a clinical aid during emergency room or general clinic consultations, ResApp’s instant, low cost and accurate diagnostic test offers many benefits over the traditional diagnostic pathway. For pneumonia in particular, ResApp’s test costs significantly less than an x-ray and follow-up consultation, and provides accurate results faster which enables physicians to initiate appropriate therapy immediately.
The Developing World
Respiratory diseases are major causes of mortality and morbidity in the developing world. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death among children under the age of 5, with 99% of those deaths occurring in the developing world. Most of these deaths are preventable by accurate diagnosis and access to simple and effective treatment. The prevalence of COPD and asthma is high in developing countries and these are generally thought to be seriously underdiagnosed.
Global aid and humanitarian organisations have a critical need for low cost and accurate diagnostic tools that are usable not only by trained medical professionals, but also by untrained personnel operating under difficult field conditions.
In licensing the technology from The University of Queensland ResApp agreed to comply with the Global Access Objectives of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This requires that the product be made accessible (with respect to cost, quantity and applicability) to the people most in need within the developing countries of the world.
The research team at The University of Queensland has developed a prototype smartphone app for use in the developing world, called PneumoFone, which provides an instant diagnosis of pneumonia. ResApp is continuing the development of this app with the goal of making it available to global humanitarian organisations working in the developing world.
Big Data Insights
With permission from users, anonymised data collected by ResApp could provide researchers unprecedented insight into respiratory conditions. Globally, hundreds of millions of people have a mobile device capable of running ResApp’s diagnostic test. Large amounts of data on the occurrence, spread and effectiveness of treatment options could be made available to researchers at large government agencies, medical research institutes, universities, pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies.