We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.
Health tracking1 is a relatively new concept. In fact, it wasn’t until the FitBit and other similar step-counting apps arrived on the scene that we realized how easy it can be to keep track of important health metrics on our own.
Now, we have a plethora of evidence2 showing how important achieving adequate daily steps can be for one's health. Some groups have proposed 10,000 steps as the marker for good health, while others have questioned this value. Whether there is a magic number of steps is, no one can say for sure, but what we do know is that more daily steps are a good thing, up to a point of diminishing returns.
The step tracking trend took hold, and alongside the rise in popularity, there was a lot of effort put into making the technology effective and easy to use. Hence we now have many options for tracking our steps: our phones, our watches, and even the good old-fashioned pedometer.
Researchers noticed how the step counting movement took hold and that simply being aware of the number of steps they take lead people to be more active.3 They began to ponder whether tracking other health statistics in the same, unobtrusive way could also have benefits. Chief among these thoughts was, “What if we could develop a cough measurement app that can provide meaningful information to both patients and clinicians?”
Currently, we don’t know exactly how many coughs in a given period are a marker of health or illness. In fact, this seems to vary widely on an individual level. Nevertheless, perhaps a sophisticated cough tracking tool could allow insight into health status and even help to paint a picture of when and why we cough in various situations and environments. Increased information about our health allows us to make more informed decisions.
Fortunately, there are some very creative and dedicated individuals in the world who have dedicated their lives to this very pursuit. Let’s take a look at the world of cough trackers in 2022.
A cough tracker is, much as the name suggests, a tool that gathers information related to respiratory processes. In practice, a cough measurement tool could be extremely technologically advanced, such as a custom-built device, or very rudimentary, such as pen-and-paper tracking methods.
App-based and technological versions of respiratory health trackers are in the middle of this scale. They have to be custom-developed based on a lot of research. But on the users’ end they need only be installed and are easy to use.
They can compile quantitative and qualitative information about coughs (i.e., how often and strongly someone coughs, and how they feel and experience their coughing). Specifically, cough monitoring apps can consolidate data about cough frequency, timing, and potentially even triggers for coughing in daily life.
Best of all, these advanced trackers do not require much effort on the part of users. As opposed to pen-and-paper tracking, app-based tracking can automatically gather data, as long as the user’s phone is within range of the user herself.
You may be justifiably wondering, “But what’s the point of tracking coughs?”. After all, you cannot control your cough reflex. And if you see your doctor regularly, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and take all the other steps necessary for optimal wellness, you probably question why you should download another app.
Knowing what is happening to our bodies can help us make decisions and plan for the coming days, weeks, months, and even years. It can help us feel more in control and reassure us about the care we receive.4 This knowledge is an important component of any patient’s health-seeking behavior – behaviors we do to relieve illness or improve health – one of the emerging medical and psychological research areas over the past few decades.
Tracking apps can provide a wealth of information to supplement the subjective reports you give to your doctor. A quality health monitoring app makes reporting symptoms to a physician much easier than trying to recall everything accurately or remember to make notes. These apps also allow for a visual representation of information that you might otherwise find overwhelming and confusing.
One example is that being able to show your cough frequency or other health information over the course of a week within an app more easily conveys important wellness information to your doctors than a set of raw cough times and durations. Additionally, having the app interpret this raw data to display it in a more intuitive may make noticing emerging patterns easier.
As we move forward, could this type of technology be a viable means of avoiding future epidemics or infectious disease outbreaks? Having more early disease data generally helps to prevent ailments from converting into full-fledged problems. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
There are now over 7 billion people walking the earth. Of those 7 billion, only a few million are healthcare professionals. This small sliver of the world population5 is responsible for helping all of us manage our diseases.
By presenting these statistics, we wish to demonstrate that being in control of our own health and having a way to capture important health metrics can help the busy clinicians of the world keep us in good health.
It’s unreasonable to assume that the average person could understand all of the nuances of a cough. However, by giving the average person a convenient app that can capture and analyze information related to coughs and cough counting, we can empower them to take an active role in their own healthcare.
Artificial intelligence in health care can play a significant supportive role. By enabling you to gain greater insight into your own health status, these technologies can help to bridge the gap between you and your doctor, such as helping you navigate the tricky issue of how to describe a cough.
With information about your cough symptoms, you can feel more empowered to seek proper care. This can lead to better care especially if you are a chronic cougher. You can often feel overlooked by your healthcare provider as an attention seeker or malingerer. Cough tracking can provide a wealth of information that can lead you to get the proper provider for your needs.
You can make a more informed decision about when and if your should contact your doctors about your coughing symptoms. If you’ve noticed that your cough frequency has increased markedly in the last few days, it’s probably time for a visit to the doctor.
If you’re like most people, the thought of diving into a research study is enough to drive you crazy. Reading about positive likelihood ratios, numbers needed to treat, and other researcher lingo is a pursuit undertaken by only a tiny fraction of the populace.
However, medical research is vitally important for all of us. By using cough tracking software, you can help to provide more data for use in respiratory research studies. Investigators can use anonymized cough tracking data to determine health trends throughout the year or throughout a particular region. Of course, as mentioned earlier, this data may also be very useful for preventing or curbing the next infectious disease that would plague our world.
Essentially, we can boil down the research benefits to four main points:
No matter what preventative steps we take, people will always get sick. This is an inevitable fact of life. Therefore, we will always need to have effective disease treatments available. Cough tracking can help to provide more data to researchers. This can be used in the development of treatments and therapies related to respiratory disease
Coughing can be a normal and benign phenomenon in many situations. In others, a cough may represent a serious condition. By gathering as much cough data as possible, cough trackers can help us to establish what is normal for coughing and respiratory phenomena
According to the National Cancer Institute,6 a clinical endpoint is “...an event or outcome that can be measured objectively to determine whether the intervention being studied is beneficial.” By studying cough more thoroughly, researchers can work to establish coughing itself as a clinical endpoint
Biomarkers, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure, are traits of a body that can be measured.7 They provide us with important health data. By further studying cough, we may be able to better understand this respiratory phenomenon and the diseases associated with it well enough to use it as a new biomarker
Objective, non-intrusive, longitudinal cough tracking enables researchers to do things they've never been able to do before., We hope and expect this will yield great insights over the coming years.
Technological progress has long been a marker of growth in healthcare. With the advent of step trackers, we saw a revolution in individual health tracking. More and more people are beginning to take an active role in their healthcare. They do that by relying on health tracking apps of all different types.References
Bennett Richardson is a physical therapist and writer out of Pittsburgh, PA. He treats a variety of conditions and writes about a number of topics in the health field. In his free time, Bennett enjoys exercising, reading, and philosophizing with anyone he can trick into having a conversation with him.