MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – How much do our voices say about our health? Researchers at Mayo Clinic have teamed up with a company specializing in artificial intelligence to find out.

As WCCO discovered, the fight against COVID-19 has doctors listening closely.

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As Director of Cardiovascular Research at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Amir Lerman believes we are just beginning to understand what he calls a new era in medicine, one that artificial intelligence is making sense of.

“The body is sending us a lot of signals that we’re not paying attention to,” Dr. Lerman said.

“When we talk about voice, it’s not exactly what you and I can hear. The voice is a spectrum of a lot of frequencies,” he added.

Case studies at Mayo Clinic have honed in on those frequencies, identifying certain vocal biomarkers to screen and detect patient health.

From pulmonary hypertension, to dementia, depression and now COVID-19.

“We’re trying to use the same element of voice recognition to find if you can actually enhance your sensitivity to detection to individualized with COVID,” Dr. Lerman said.

Tal Wenderow is President and CEO of Vocalis Health, an Israeli medtech start-up using AI algorithms to screen, manage and predict health care.

“Our early data indicates that we have a signal in both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients,” Wenderow said.

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“Now you’re asked to count from 50 to 70.  You get five seconds to clear your throat and get ready,” the voice demo said.

“We transfer the voice from the voice domain to the image domain,” Wenderow explained.

“Then, every voice that comes we translate to an image and we compare and we look at that correlation,” he added.

Vocalis is currently working with employers in Asia and India as they look for ways to bring employees back safely.

While it may sound like something from the space age, Vocalis says it comes at a time contactless care is critical.  He also reminds us to think back on how many times we’ve said this before.

“You don’t sound so good today.  That’s what we’re trying to quantify and standardize and use that as a tool in the healthcare toolbox,” Wenderow said.

Once this COVID screening is published in a peer review journal, Mayo hopes to begin using it, too.

Over the next two years, Mayo will work with 400 patients in its pulmonary hypertension study to screen patient’s voices to better understand their health and the progression of the disease.

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