A digital upgrade to stethoscopes | mb.com.ph | Philippine News
Home  » Lifestyle » Tech Lifestyle » A digital upgrade to stethoscopes

A digital upgrade to stethoscopes

1It was French physician, René Laennec, who invented the means for our doctors to listen in the delicate internal clockwork of our body. The year was 1816. A woman suffering from symptoms related to heart disease consulted Leannec; but the physician had a hard time assessing her condition by conventional methods at the time.  He felt very uncomfortable placing his ear on women’s chests. Checkup via percussion (a clinical examination done by tapping and taking note of the resulting sound) also proved ineffective due to the patient’s great degree of fatness—as Laennec put it in his classic treatise published in 1819 called “De l’Auscultation Médiate” (On Mediate Auscultation). He was then struck with inspiration on how to proceed and writes, “I rolled a quire of paper into a kind of cylinder and applied one end of it to the region of the heart and the other to my ear, and was not a little surprised and pleased to find that I could thereby perceive the action of the heart in a manner much more clear and distinct than I had ever been able to do by the immediate application of my ear.” And so the first Stethoscope (from “stethos” meaning chest, and “skopos” meaning examination) was conceived.2

The initial design of the device looked very much like an Ear Trumpet, a common hearing aid back in the 17th century. The Stethoscope then was tubular in shape where it funnels out at one end while the other is placed in the ear for listening. It has evolved throughout the years to become binaural (hearing with both ears), flexible, two-sided (one for the respiratory system, the other for the cardiovascular system), and external noise reducing. Now another innovation has just been made with Eko Core, the Stethoscope’s award winning, FDA-approved, user-friendly gateway to the digital world.

As presented in the product homepage at ekodevices.com, the Eko Core is an electronic add-on that wirelessly transmits sound received by a stethoscope to your smart devices via Bluetooth. It works best with Littman Cardiology III style stethoscopes and is compatible with most except Double Tubed models. The app (available only at Apple Store as of this writing) allows the user to record and visualize waveforms in real time. It is also capable of 7 volume amplification levels and audio filtering in digital mode, covering hard to hear cardiac murmurs and lung sounds without the distraction of ambient noise. A one-click EHR (Electronic Health Record) integration is also featured to better organize patients and recordings, along with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant storage for any illegal breach of privacy.

Images from www.ekodevices.com

Images from www.ekodevices.com

In addition, logging on to the ekodevices.com dashboard will allow clinicians the use of digital auscultation tools, complementing the skill needed to decipher the internal sounds made by our circulatory, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. The site will also allow access to live-streamed heart sounds, pre-recorded samples, real-time notes, and chat functions for digital second opinions.

Other hardware attributes include a moisture resistant frame for easy cleaning, and a 9- hour average battery life—equivalent to 2 weeks of normal usage.

Leading doctors and specialists had already tried their hand with the product and returned some very positive feedback. Here are some quotes from an article by The New York Times—“This is probably one of the most important innovations in the plain old stethoscope in recent years,” says Dr. Charanjit Rihal (chairman of the division of cardiovascular diseases at the Mayo Clinic). Dr. Harrington (a cardiologist and chairman of the department of medicine at Stanford) also states that “The Eko technology has the potential to improve a physician’s diagnostic acumen by enabling a doctor to hear and see the pattern of a patient’s heart rhythms in greater detail.” The article goes on to say that Dr. Harrington sees great value on being able to compare between visits from a year or two earlier, as well as using the product as a teaching tool with physician residents, “They can hear while I listen and describe different heart sounds.”

Connor Landgraf (co-founder and CEO at Eko Devices) had the idea to work on this innovation during his senior year in Berkley as a bioengineering major. A researcher from the University of California spoke in his class on how modern medical technology still had gaps, emphasizing the challenge of interpreting heart sounds and diagnosing abnormalities for those who do not possess the seasoned experience of veteran cardiologists. Landgraf then persuaded business major Jason Bellet (co-founder and COO), and engineering major/software developer Tyler Crouch (co-founder and CTO), to help in bringing the stethoscope up to speed.

You can’t always tell for sure where that next innovation might come from—but keep your eyes peeled for that spark; it just might lead to something great.