Doctors Without Borders in talks with ResApp to evaluate respiratory disease diagnostic app in rural, low-income settings

By Heather Mack
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International medical organization Doctors Without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières, or MSF) is looking to evaluate the use of an app to diagnose and manage respiratory disease in rural, low-income settings. An unofficial collaboration is already in the works with Australian digital health company ResApp, whom MSF has indicated they are interested in working with in a clinical study.

ResApp, which last raised $9.74 million, is developing an app that essentially uses the smartphone microphone as a stethoscope to listen to a patient’s breathing. Rather that relying on a doctor’s ears to form a diagnosis, the app employs machine-learning algorithms to automatically determine which respiratory condition the patient might have, including pneumonia, asthma, bronchiolitis and COPD.

The company has already amassed some pretty promising data on the accuracy of the ResAppDx app. In November 2016, Texas Children’s became the final of three sites to join a trial examining the use of the app for diagnosing pneumonia. Earlier in the year, ResApp achieved an accuracy of 89 percent in a clinical study of 524 pediatric patients conducted by the company at Joondalup Health Campus (JHC) and Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) in Perth, Western Australia, where the company is based. In a smaller trial of 243 adult patients, also at Joondalup, the company saw accuracy between 91 and 100 percent.

If they end up going the full clinical study distance with MSF, ResApp’s technology could potentially help curb pneumonia deaths, which claim more than 950,000 children under the age of five every year and can be attributed to a lack of high-quality medical care in rural, low-income regions.

“We are very pleased with the collaboration to date and we have used the feedback obtained to refine ResAppDx even further for the difficult environments in which MSF operates,” Tony Keating, CEO and managing director of ResApp said in a statement. “We are looking forward to evaluating the clinical performance of ResAppDx in some of the most challenging conditions that doctors encounter.”