The project involves collaboration with two industrial partners, Aculab plc and Oxford Wave Research (OperaVOX) to develop a telehealth system to aid screening and monitoring of medical disorders affecting speech. Current procedures require subjects to visit a specialist clinic where they are examined by a skilled clinician. This is costly and inconvenient, often involving the subject travelling a significant distance, as well as accruing personnel and equipment costs. This project will demonstrate a fully automatic system to record and analyse speech, using existing telephone lines, returning results to clinicians via email or fax. This means that there would be no need for a clinical visit until the clinician decides that there is sufficient evidence to warrant it, and there would be no need for any additional equipment or personnel. The procedure would thus save the NHS, and the subjects, a large proportion of the current costs, while still being easy to deploy, since most subjects are already familiar with, and competent in the use of, their own telephones.
The system developed could potentially lead to dramatic changes in the treatment of patients with speech disorders by the NHS, and other health services around the world.
The work will also provide a new methodology for collecting and analysing speech over the telephone, accessible by virtually the whole population. It would enable a wide range of subsequent studies of speech and language using a crowdsourcing model, and so could potentially change the way speech research is conducted.