Campus - 04.01.2023 - 13:56 

Artificial intelligence from HSG start-up analyses coughing sounds

The HSG spin-off Resmonics has developed an artificial intelligence solution that examines coughing sounds. Chronic asthma or COPD sufferers benefit from the software, which has been approved as a medical device. However, it can also help people who have just caught a cold, to better identify their symptoms.
Young ill woman infected by the coronavirus is coughing into her upper sleeve while covering with a blue quilt in her home

Coughing again? Can I go to the office or am I contagious? Or should I go to the doctor? Artificial intelligence from Resmonics, a spin-off from the HSG and ETH Zurich, can help answer such questions. "If you have an elevated temperature you reach for a thermometer, which can usually be found in every home. We want to make such a measuring instrument available for respiratory diseases", says Peter Tinschert. The 33-year-old is co-founder of Resmonics. The start-up has spent years developing an artificial intelligence solution that analyses coughing sounds at night. This software is called ResGuard Med and can be accessed, for example, via the free "myCough" app. What's more, pharmaceutical companies, university hospitals and health insurers are also working with the Resmonics tool, and integrating it into their own applications. 

In addition to a tool for assessing colds, ResGuard Med is primarily used to support people suffering from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). "With these diseases, the symptoms can deteriorate very suddenly. Regular monitoring is therefore important, but previous measuring instruments were not practical for patients. That is something we want to change", says Tinschert. ResGuard Med runs on smartphones or tablets, which patients place next to their bed during the night. The software records coughing sounds with the standard microphone of the devices. If there are any noticeable issues that could make a medical examination neces-sary, this can be seen by the patients in the evaluation. 

AI developed from scratch

Years of development work have gone into the AI solution: Tinschert did his doctorate at the HSG Institute for Technology Management (HSG-ITEM), which is involved in the Centre for Digital Health Interventions (CDHI), from 2016 to 2020. The CDHI is a joint initiative of the HSG, ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. While working towards his doctorate, Tinschert began work on artificial intelligence that could investigate coughing sounds. "As a first step, I collected data in 2016 together with doctoral students from ETH Zurich in a study with around 90 asthma patients", says Tinschert. Coughing sounds made by patients during the night were recorded and coded with the help of HSG student employees.

The software is based on data from two medical studies, and has now been approved as a medical device in Switzerland and the European Union. "The complex development of the software and the medical certification process were the reasons why the whole thing took five years, from the business idea to the market launch at the end of 2021", says Tinschert. 

Elgar Fleisch, Chair at HSG-ITEM and at the Department of Management, Technology and Economy at ETH Zurich, also talks of "numerous ups and downs, as is normal in research", when referring to the development of ResGuard Med. The team of three doctoral students - including Tinschert - had spent years refining the technique and medical validity at the HSG and ETH, in collaboration with Martin Brutsche, a pneumologist at the Cantonal Hospital in St.Gallen. "The fact that the results of this research are now being released into the world for the benefit of many makes me very happy", says Fleisch.

Study on the course of COVID-19 at the Cantonal Hospital

Today, Resmonics has five employees who, among other things, are continuously developing the AI. The investors so far include the health insurance company CSS and the start-up funding initiative Venturekick, and Resmonics is currently also going through a round of financing. Tinschert, who originally studied psychology with a focus on applied statistics, had to "change his mindset" in the transformation from researcher to founder, he says.

His time at the HSG was helpful for this: Tinschert took courses on technology-based entrepreneurship during his doctorate. What's more, Resmonics was also supported in the "HSG Entrepreneurial Talents" programme. In this programme, founders receive coaching, referrals to networks and financial support.
Resmonics was also able to test its product during the fight against the pandemic: In the summer of 2020, the AI solution was applied during a study at the cantonal hospital in St.Gallen: It used cough sounds to predict the possible course of a COVID-19 infection for patients already in hospital. The study is currently being evaluated for publication in the European Respiratory Journal. 

ResGuard Med is still only commercially available in a few countries in Europe. According to Tinschert, in principle, the technology also has the potential to improve medical care in emerging countries. "Users only need a smartphone for the measurements. And this is helpful in areas with a poor health infrastructure, as people can get a medical assessment early on and independently". 

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