A study, by Offer Amir (Heart Institute, Hadassah Medical Centre, Jerusalem, Israel) and colleagues, indicates that voice analysis by a smartphone app could be used to identify lung congestion in heart failure patients, allowing early intervention before their condition deteriorates. The small study was presented HFA Discoveries, a scientific platform of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

The study included 40 patients admitted to hospital with acute heart failure and lung congestion. Patients were asked to record five sentences into a standard smartphone upon admission and then again just prior to discharge when they were no longer congested. The duration of each recording was two to five seconds. The researchers found that the technology successfully distinguished between the congested state at admission and the non-congested state at discharge.

“Speech is personal and as such, very small changes (related to the same person) can be detected – for example, the ability of parents to notice health issues by listening to their kids. Today we report results of the first easy to use, non-invasive, personalised heart failure monitoring device. It requires a simple 30-second recording each day, in any language,” Amir comments.

He adds that the system could be used to monitor heart failure patients at home. Physicians prescribe the app, patients download it to their smartphone and submit voice recordings when they feel well so the app can create a personalised “healthy” model. Each day patients add a recording, which the app compares to the healthy model. Small deviations denoting the start of fluid accumulation generate an alert, which physicians pick up from a designated web portal. “Those with early signs of lung congestion could receive adjustments to their treatment, thereby preventing the need for hospitalisation. As more speech samples are obtained, the model becomes increasingly sensitive to changes,” Amir explained.

Furthermore, he notes: “During the current COVID-19 pandemic healthcare professionals are transitioning many outpatient visits for heart failure patients to telemedicine platforms, highlighting the importance of remote monitoring to reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus.”