We have been actively studying the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the diagnostics, treatment and follow-up of patients with the COVID-19 disease. Our research will also benefit other patient groups.

In patients with the most severe forms of COVID-19, pulmonary failure may occur suddenly or gradually. Currently, lung function is assessed by auscultation (listening through a stethoscope), but it is not possible to detect all kinds of changes in this way. In other words, there is currently no reliable method available for identifying these patients or for assessing and monitoring the condition of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we began to develop a method for monitoring the progress of COVID-19, identifying changes in the lungs and determining which patients are at risk of the severest form of the disease. The research project is based on the AusculThing concept, originally developed in Finland for cardiological examinations.

Towards a digital hospital

This development project involves recording breathing and heart sounds of COVID-19 patients who are members of at-risk groups or are in inpatient care, using an electronic Thinklabs One® stethoscope, and entering the recordings into the AusculThing application and storing them in electronic form. Signal processing is used to analyze the sounds, filtering and amplifying the frequencies typical of the pulmonary changes exhibiting at various stages of the disease. These changes are then monitored as the disease progresses.

The collected breathing sounds are compared to the patient’s symptoms, laboratory and imaging examination results and medications administered. These data are then used to develop algorithms that will allow the pulmonary condition of COVID-19 patients to be quickly assessed both in inpatient care and in patients being monitored elsewhere. The study forms part of our extensive digitalization project.

Method applicable to other diseases

This method can be applied to other pulmonary diseases which each present with a specific frequency or change in the quality of the signal in breathing sounds. The method is being fine-tuned to recognize patients whose condition is not under control or who belong to an at-risk group, such as those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma or cardiac insufficiency.

Our partners are ThinkLabs (USA) for electronic stethoscopes, Castor EDC for cloud services and Samsung for tablet computers. We have collaborated in COVID-19 research with various universities, research institutions, authorities and enterprises and have participated in various international projects.