Healthcare workers in underdeveloped regions struggle to diagnose and treat even basic illnesses and conditions. One prime example is pneumonia, which is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 years old. Doctors and healthcare workers in poor areas typically rely on Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) diagnostic standards issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), but these guidelines do not offer very specific diagnoses.

ResApp is the company that is marketing a system that can diagnose illness based on sound samples of the patient coughing. The company recently announced that is has licensed new algorithms to diagnose pneumonia. Unlike their original app, this system does not rely on sound. Instead, its diagnosis is based on several commonly used vital signs, including heart rate, temperature, and blood oxygen levels. All of these readings are often available even where healthcare resources are limited. In a peer reviewed study, this new system managed a specificity of about 70% for childhood pneumonia, compared with 10 to 38% for the WHO/IMCI criteria. The result is a huge improvement in diagnosis specificity, which should in turn lead to better treatment choices and improved outcomes for individual patients.

ResApp has chosen to comply with the Gates Foundation’s Global Access Objectives so that this new technology will be accessible to people in developing countries, so that cost will not be a barrier to its adoption.