Dr. Iltifat Husain’s physician take is at the end of this article
Eko Devices has released the Eko Core, a digital stethoscope that can amplify, record, analyze, and share heart sounds. We previously wrote about Eko after they presented their device at a startup event hosted at last year’s American Heart Association meeting.
The company says the device is the first smartphone-connected digital stethoscope that wirelessly transfers heart sounds from the clinician’s stethoscope to a HIPAA-compliant mobile application. It is also the first such device that can be integrated with an electronic health record system, “making heart sound recordings and accompanying data an integral new part of a patient’s medical history” according to the company.
The Eko Core, which is priced starting at $199, will eventually be accompanied by a clinical decision support algorithm to help clinicians characterize heart murmurs and abnormal heart sounds. John Chorba, MD, a cardiologist at UC San Francisco, believes it has the potential to be a game changer in the medical community. “…it captures heart sounds in a streamlined way that has never been done before, interfacing seamlessly into our traditional exam without requiring any extra effort. With it, we as providers can record, review, and share a key part of our exam findings that can be incredibly helpful in our longitudinal care. And that may just be the beginning; this device could help transform what we think the cardiac exam could actually tell us.”
The new stethoscope connects to mobile devices by means of Bluetooth, it includes an audio filter that reduces ambient background noises, and can be operated in both analog and digital modes. The company claims its volume amplification feature also helps capture hard-to-hear cardiac murmurs and lung sounds. The Eko app, that the stethoscope communicates with, is capable of recording and playing back heart sounds, storing the data for easy access, review, and annotation. The app also lets clinicians share the recorded data with colleagues for second opinions. Currently, the data collected by the stethoscope can be integrated into several EHR systems, including AllScripts, Practice Fusion, Cerner, Epic, Athena Health, and DrChrono.
Dr. Iltifat Husain’s take:
I think this is an interesting concept, but not necessarily something an everyday physician would find useful. There are a few and specific pathologic heart murmurs we look for that actually change clinical care – and adding on a digital stethoscope wouldn’t necessarily change that management. More interesting though is the potential to use this type of device in a telemedicine type setting. For example, if you had a rural health clinical, mid level providers, or even nurses, could send stethoscope sounds via the electronic medical record – helping you perform a digital physical exam. There could also be some interesting applications in tracking known valvular disease, though that will have to be studied against gold-standard echocardiography that is getting cheaper and more accessible. We’re in the process of getting one of the Eko devices to review and will hopefully post a review in the future.