Backed by sleek devices and powered by intelligent software and apps, smartphones are shaping the future of healthcare. The latest development in medical apps is the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze data and offer a diagnosis within seconds.

ResApp Health, a digital healthcare solutions company based in Australia, is developing an app that can diagnose respiratory conditions with a smartphone’s microphone, which acts as a stethoscope, according to MobiHealthNews. The ResAppDx app applies specially developed machine learning algorithms to the sounds, including cough sounds, which automatically identify potential respiratory conditions, including pneumonia, asthma, bronchiolitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Another company utilizing artificial intelligence advances is Beyond Verbal, which has launched a research platform that’s attempting to identify biomarkers in users’ voices to detect a range of health issues, including heart problems, ALS and even Parkinson’s disease.

While there are still many regulatory hurdles for apps like these to overcome before achieving mainstream adoption, this trend isn’t going away. “Except for ICUs, operating rooms and emergency rooms, hospitals of the future are likely to be roomless data surveillance centers for remote patient monitoring,” Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in California, said in the Wall Street Journal.

Emergence of Smartphones in Healthcare

Ever since the advent of the internet two decades ago, self-diagnosis has become a growing trend among consumers, with patients relying on sometimes illegitimate online advice to determine what’s wrong with them, rather than visiting a doctor. With smartphones, however, we can connect directly with doctors without having to leave our homes.

Smartphones today have an increasing array of sensors that companies are now leveraging to provide real-time, instant feedback to users about an array of medical conditions. Research by Deloitte last year showed that in 2014 as many as one in six doctor visits were already virtual, with patients paying a one-off fee to access a doctor through their smartphones.

While smartphones are able to measure some of your body’s vital signs, wearable technology like smartwatches and fitness trackers take this a step further by giving users round-the-clock feedback on their health, constantly measuring readings like blood-oxygen and glucose levels, blood pressure and heart rhythm. But this data is pointless without analysis, which is why machine learning algorithms like ResApp and Beyond Verbal are so important.

As technology continues to advance, and the smartphone becomes even more powerful, it will be even more central to the future of healthcare. According to Dr. Topol, “It won’t be long before you can take a smartphone X-ray selfie if you’re worried that you might have broken a bone.”

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