"I developed a solution for early identification of heart and lung diseases"
Student's innovation is transforming healthcare in Kazakhstan
About the author:
Aidar Batyrbekov, 21, is a third year student at the International IT University (IITU) in Almaty, Kazakhstan, majoring in Computer Science
In Kazakhstan, innovations are gaining momentum. Nowadays young people enjoy access to information and modern technologies, challenged with virtually no barriers or borders for their creative thinking. When in school, children and teenagers already start thinking about their future, commit to personal growth and seek to make themselves more competitive in the job market.
I started to think how I can influence the future of my country when I entered the university - I study at the International IT University (IITU) in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Sometimes I had ideas of different projects, but I didn’t really understand how to bring them to life, and I did not know who could help me to work on them. At one of the lectures, Professor Batyrkhan Omarov mentioned the work of the UNICEF Innovations Lab and offered his mentorship support for my projects. This is how the story of Smart Stethoscope development begins.
Support and mentorship are very important. When you pursue a lot of ideas, you need someone to help you focus and to provide support in the development process
The idea to invent the Smart Stethoscope came around after we saw the statistics of incredibly high mortality rate due to heart diseases in Kazakhstan. I started learning more - talked to my relatives, read articles and research publications. It turned out that quite often people do not want to go to a hospital and have checkups until their condition gets critical. Many seek help only when a disease has already escalated and is very hard to be treated. And that is how I decided on this issue.
I thought if a person can do a self-assessment of symptoms at home and realize that there are some health concerns, he or she would more likely go to a hospital and avoid critical conditions. Together with my friend Ayan Akkasov, we started designing the Smart Stethoscope - a portable device that records your heartbeat on your phone and analyzes it using Deep learning technology.
Machine learning can address many challenges in society. I want to address the problem with early identification of heart and lung diseases
Smart Stethoscope is a combination of a mobile app and an external device (the stethoscope itself). Stethoscope has a sensitive microphone inside which picks up a wider frequency range than a human ear. This makes it possible to increase the volume of audible noises, and to identify low-frequency sounds. Deep neural networks help identify sounds that indicate a potential disease. If the device detects a deviation, user receives a recommendation to visit a doctor and get a health screening.
Prototype of Smart Stethoscope was tested in a hospital in Almaty to increase the accuracy of the device. It was very useful, as we were working with patients and noticed a number of things that needed improvement. For instance, it was more difficult to listen heartbeat and record sounds of older people, so we had to build an amplifier. Also, there were many patients in the hospital rooms, so the microphone would pick up unwanted sounds, and now we are working to improve sound filtering.
Even though Smart Stethoscope is a new project, it has won the second place at the Open Healthcare hackathon. It was also noticed and highlighted by the Vice-Minister of Healthcare of Kazakhstan Olzhas Abishev during the Digital Bridge forum.
With the support from the UNICEF Innovation Lab, we achieved significant results and we are working to improve the Smart Stethoscope. We try to attend all workshops, residencies and lectures on Big Data and Machine Learning, organized by the Lab.
I believe that our project will help millions of people around the world and in Kazakhstan to prevent serious heart and lung diseases and consult doctors on time. I really hope that every young innovator will have the opportunity to be supported – the same way I had mentorship and support when I needed that help so much.