Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disease that’s caused by air pollution and smoking. By 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that the cost of treating adults with COPD will be more than $90 billion. As of yet there is no cure for COPD and lung damage caused by the disease is irreversible.
However, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel for COPD sufferers as IBM teams up with startup dockdok.health to develop technologies through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), including big data. The companies will begin with a research project, called CAir, in Switzerland where there are estimated to be around 400,000 COPD cases.
“As most chronic diseases progress outside the hospital we need a secure way to monitor patients when they are discharged. In CAir, we are demonstrating that mobile health technologies have the potential to not only offer frequent patient support at scale and low cost, but also to provide health care that is tailored specifically to individual patient needs,” says Ulrich Muehlner, chief executive of docdok.health.
The new trial focuses on providing mobile health care to those that need it through the use of AI. Docdok.health provides aid in the treatment of disease by offering doctors and patients the chance to interact through its cloud-based platform. As part of the trial, participants will wear Internet of Things (IoT) devices in which to monitor their vitals statistics such as heart rate, cough intensity, and lung function. Doctors will then proceed to use docdok.health’s platform to get objective information on their patients.
When the study is over, IBM will use it’s AI software to look for any patterns or correlations in the data. One day doctors will be able to use this information to predict when a patient might suffer an exacerbation and require hospitalisation. In some cases, this may even be prevented.
Throughout the trial doctors will complete questionnaires to see if the platform is adding to or reducing their workload. Muehlner is hopeful that docdok.health will enable doctors to become more focused on patient interaction. It may take a while for all doctors to catch on to this AI technology, but ultimately when they do they will see what a great benefit it is to them.
“IBM’s work, particular its supercomputer Watson, has been making waves in the healthcare space. The AI is already being used to assist cancer diagnosis or identify genes that cause ALS, so using it to help manage COPD is the next step in the company’s healthcare plans,” says Muehlner.