Digital Pneumonia Diagnosis

A new mobile-based application created through a research partnership hopes to address and diagnose childhood pneumonia with ease.


Visually observing a child’s breathing and counting the breaths can be challenging, especially when the child is breathing fast or moving about. A new mobile-based application called mPneumonia, designed by researchers from PATH, University of Washington, and Kintampo Health Research Centre, Ghana, could help practitioners address this challenge.

The user-friendly tool combines a digital version of the World Health Organization’s Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) protocols with a software-based breath counter.

Related: PAS: Fewer tests improve care in neurologically impaired children with pneumonia

The health care practitioner (HCP) records breathing by tapping the screen for each breath observed over 1 minute. Visual, audio, and vibration indicators provide feedback at each tap as well as when the measurement period ends. The application uses Android phone or tablet technology and does not need a network or wireless connection to function. It stores information locally until it is connected to a network, after which data files can be uploaded to a central server. A reusable pulse oximeter can be connected.

Related: HHS Grants Fund Health IT in Communities

The researchers designed the application with “lesser-trained HCPs” in low-resource settings in mind and tested its usability at a community health clinic in Ghana. Based on their experience with 7 HCPs (5 of whom had never used a touch-screen device), the researchers incorporated more user-friendly features (such as images of palmar pallor) to allow them to answer the algorithm questions quickly without having to read the text. This step-by-step software increases adherence to the algorithm by not allowing HCPs to skip essential assessment questions, which means less experienced users can identify children with pneumonia who are in greatest need of treatment.

Related: The Lasting Effects of Pneumonia

Given that clinicians average 8.2 minutes per child for a consultation using the paper-based IMCI protocol, the researchers concede that the 43 minutes the testers typically took would not be practical for most HCPs. They say it will be important to find out how daily routine use and more familiarity with the application will reduce that time.

Source: Ginsburg AS, Delarosa J, Brunette W, et al. PLOS One. 2015;10(10):e0139625.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139625.

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