Vocal biomarkers have amazing potential in reforming diagnostics. As certain diseases, like those affecting the heart, lungs, vocal folds or the brain can alter a person’s voice, artificial intelligence (A.I.)-based voice analyses provide new horizons in medicine. Using biomarkers for diagnosis and remote monitoring can also be used for COVID-screening. So is it possible to diagnose illnesses from the sound of your voice?
Let’s have a look at where this technology stands today.
- Hype Cycle Of The Top 50 Emerging Digital Health Trends By The Medical Futurist
- Can Your Voice Help You Get Diagnosed With COVID-19? – Interview With Shady Hassan, MD, CMO of Vocalis Health
Being placed at the beginning of the upward-leaning curve of our TOP 50 Emerging Digital Health Trend Hype Cycle, in our assessment we clearly indicated vocal biomarkers as ‘green’, meaning the technology has a lot to offer and will grow significantly in the close future. Researchers expect massive market growth in the biomarker segment reaching USD 147.59 billion by 2028; this technology will surely have an impact on how we deliver healthcare.
What are biomarkers?
A “biological marker” or “biomarker” refers to medical signs, which indicate the medical state observed from outside the patient. So while patients sense symptoms, medical professionals measure biomarkers. Currently, they take into account all kinds of objective, quantifiable biomarkers ranging from biochemical, radiology markers to various health parameters.
And as you could have guessed already, vocal biomarkers are medical signs deducted from the features of your voice. The characteristics of your voice – or as medicine labels them, vocal biomarkers – reveal a lot about your health and help in detecting serious diseases and health risks.
Amazing potential in reforming diagnostics
Vocal biomarkers can help detect some diseases earlier than an average check-up process; and an earlier diagnosis could essentially be the difference between life and death in relation to certain illnesses. It is an amazing area of medicine, and the field is buzzing. Imagine how easy it would be if medical professionals could identify patients with coronary artery disease over a phone call! Or diagnosing mental health issues, Parkinson’s or even COVID-19. There would be no need to go to the doctors’ office, wait for hours for costly examinations and days for the results.
Voice analysis and COVID-19
Vocal biomarkers can offer safe and effective solutions for institutions, businesses and even individuals during the pandemic. “Adding voice analysis as a standard element of health screening to current methods could allow businesses and institutions to return to business with more confidence,” explained Dr Shady Hassan, founder and CMO of Vocalis Health in our interview for The Medical Futurist Patreon channel (the only platform aimed at directly supporting our articles and research).
He added, “vocal biomarker testing is not intended to provide a definitive diagnosis, but to help hospitals and health systems triage potential cases by rapidly identifying people who have a higher probability of being COVID positive and require more advanced diagnostic testing, quarantine, or in-person medical care.
This totally non-invasive screening tool helps physicians remotely assess the health of their patients, providing immediate results which can guide clinicians in making fast, educated decisions about diagnosis and treatment plans.”
California-based Sonaphi uses vocal biomarkers combined with machine learning to derive valuable insights into health and wellness. They are currently also developing a smartphone app detecting COVID-19, based on a 60-seconds sound file.
Do I sound ill?
What if a disease could be identified over a phone call? One of the first research in the subject assessed the presence of coronary artery disease (CAD) in a group of patients. Once again, Vocalis Health is leading the pack: then called Beyond Verbal, the company was focusing on emotion analytics and provided voice analysis software. Carried out in cooperation with Mayo Clinic, the research involved a double-blind study with 120 patients undergoing both an angiography and a voice analysis using a smartphone app for voice measurement.
Besides focusing on COVID-screening, Vocalis Health also focuses on various voice-indicating ailments including chronic respiratory and cardiac conditions as well as depression. In a strategic collaboration with Mayo Clinic, they work on the research and development of new voice-based tools for patient health monitoring, screening and detection. Their first study was to identify vocal biomarkers to detect pulmonary hypertension (PH).
Say something, I tell you if you are depressed!
“The ability to help recognize early signs of psychiatric illness and monitor treatment responses on devices that people already own is an important step in moving from reactive to preventive care,” said Aimee Danielson, PhD, Director, Women’s Mental Health Program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “This would be particularly useful in conditions that are chronically underdiagnosed, like perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression.”
Med-tech startup Sonde Health claims to be able to detect changes in one’s mental health from changes in the voice. The company developed a voice-based technology platform for monitoring and diagnosing mental and physical health conditions with the help of technology licensed from the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. The researchers designed the A.I. to analyse brief voice samples to screen and monitor for a range of medical concerns. In 2020 Sonde Health also developed a COVID-19 screening tool for better workplace safety.
Another company, Kintsugi uses a machine-learning algorithm to detect signs of depression and anxiety after listening to 20 seconds of a person’s speech. Their solution is built-in in enterprise call centres, telehealth platforms, and remote patient monitoring apps, but also lends a hand to doctors in diagnosing mental health conditions. The startup even has an application for voice-based journaling and a self-care platform for individuals.
With a bold vision to help people understand their emotional health through voice, Ellipsis Health focuses on analysing acoustics and words in natural speech by quantifying the severity of depression and anxiety. Using A.I. and machine learning, the company generates a science-based assessment of stress, depression, and anxiety, using natural speech. The company aims to provide a safety net for those falling thorough screening and monitoring gaps of healthcare systems.
What if an “aaaaaah” could reveal Parkinson’s disease?
Standard medical tests for Parkinson’s disease are time-consuming, difficult and expensive. Scientists found though that this chronic illness affects limb movements as much as voice – and some of them started to develop a technology for easier diagnosing the illness.
For proving the efficiency of the new diagnostic tool, researchers started the Parkinson’s Voice Initiative. They want to collect 10,000 voice recordings from around the world. In their view patients can do the tests themselves and medical professionals could administer these remotely. Also, they are high speed (take less than 30 seconds), and are ultra low cost. You can participate in their smartphone data-gathering or PVA Voice test here.
It’s obvious that we need more research in the field of vocal biomarkers. We also need not to forget the ethical issues concerning the voice recordings. Although algorithms analyzing samples may not be interested in the content of the speech; nevertheless listening to someone talking to someone else over the phone and analyzing the vocal biomarkers in it, could constitute a serious breach of privacy. What should we do about that?
Well, regulators need to keep up with the development of the field of vocal biomarkers, and consider privacy issues before the sea of vocal analytics apps reach the market.
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The post Vocal Biomarkers: New Opportunities in Prevention appeared first on The Medical Futurist.
Title: Vocal Biomarkers: New Opportunities in Prevention
Sourced From: medicalfuturist.com/vocal-biomarkers-new-opportunities-prevention
Published Date: Thu, 25 Nov 2021 10:00:00 +0000
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