Ed. Note: This post was updated after initial publication to make a clarification regarding device installation and updated comments on audio quality with a newer model of the device. See the end of the review for details.
The Eko Stethoscope has seen a fair amount of press prior to its release, including here on iMedicalApps, and has even been hailed by Time magazine as among the 25 best inventions of 2015.
It is advertised as a digital stethoscope, but is really more of a “hybrid” in the sense that it can switch easily between a digital mode (with electronic amplification and recording capability) and a fully analog mode. This works because this device is placed in-line with the tubing and can thereby rely solely on the traditional diaphragms and tubing. That’s different from most digital stethoscopes that have a completely digitized head that does not function at all when the battery or device is off
Even so, digital stethoscopes are nothing new. The most touted advantages of the Eko are from Bluetooth connectivity, that you can use your own stethoscope, and an iPhone app that claims the ability to record heart sounds seamlessly and with EMR integration. That comes with the bold claim that this enhanced sharing, communication, and tracking can improve care and even obviate the need for many echocardiograms. Does the Eko stethoscope live up to the hype? Is it worth the price tag?
The Eko stethoscope can be sold as an individual device that you can attach by yourself to an existing stethoscope (see below) or as pre-installed with provided stethoscope. To install on your own stethoscope, you can use extension tubing included with the device or cut the tubing of your own stethoscope to insert the device (see below for more on why you’d do one or the other).
On their website, Eko doesn’t specify which stethoscope it comes with, but I found it to be the Adscope 601, which currently retails for $76.50 on Amazon. Therefore, minus the cost of the device, you are essentially paying $100 for the stethoscope plus modification. The stethoscope has the standard convertible adult and pediatric bell with tunable (pressure sensitive) diaphragms. For an audio quality comparison between the Adscope and others on the market, see this dated but still useful comprehensive review on comparative performance.
Eko stethoscope attachment
Aesthetics, size, and weight
Straight out of the box, the device appears professional: functional, plain, and well-integrated into the traditional form of the stethoscope. I did get compliments and curious looks from patients and staff alike. It is made of a black plastic exterior with metal internal nipples where the tubing attaches to the device on both ends.
That said, the Eko stethoscope was considerably longer and heavier than I expected, and consequently takes some getting used to slinging around your neck without developing cervical radiculopathy or getting it caught in things. The Eko itself is approx 1.83 oz (~52 grams), 3.25″ long and 1.5″ wide at its longest point. For comparison, the advertised Adscope chestpiece head alone weighs 4.1 oz.
The total weight of the stethoscope and Eko is 9.4 oz with a whopping length of 31.5″. For comparison, I thought my cheap $12 Sprague was heavy (weighing 9.6 oz), and a standard Littmann length is either 22″ or 27″. Unless you chop off a length of tubing, expect extension tubing included with the device to add about 3″ to your current stethoscope.