A number of new plug-ins for mobile phones have emerged in recent years to deliver quite extensive healthcare services to users. You’ve got services like Peek Vision that provide eye examinations via the camera in your phone, or the Cupris device that can conduct ear examinations.
The latest device of this kind is called Eko Core, a digital stethoscope that has been launched in the UK and EU. The device is believed to be the first that will pair a digital stethoscope with a phone wirelessly.
The belief is that this will allow clinicians to easily record, share and annotate sounds with colleagues. The device aims to provide a better listening experience than most stethoscopes, with 40X sound amplification and noise reduction. It also allows users to switch from analog to digital mode. The device will be available either as a standalone stethoscope or as a smartphone attachment.
It works by wireless streaming the sounds from the heart to the app that comes with the device. It can also upload these sounds directly to the electronic health record of the patient.
The mobile nature of the device opens up the possibility of remote diagnoses, potentially even by non-specialists who can then share the data to an expert located in a hospital.
“The Eko device enables remote clinical examination in any location, from a patient in their own home, to a paramedic in an ambulance, or a care worker in a residential setting; the possibilities for a digital stethoscope are endless,” said Dr Keith Grimes, GP and Digital Healthcare Innovator. “I use the Eko stethoscope in my GP surgery daily, it switches seamlessly between analogue and digital, the amplification works well, and the ability to share information with patients is really interesting aspect. I had a mother who was concerned her son had a heart murmur; using the digital stethoscope connected to my phone she was able to hear it and be reassured that it was normal. I am learning so much daily by using the Eko technology and researching the future possibilities it opens up.”
The device is already being used by over 3,000 clinicians in the US, and the hope is that it will achieve similar success in Europe.
“As many as 80% of internal medicine residents misdiagnose common murmurs with their stethoscope, so the idea was to build a ‘smart stethoscope’ to assist clinicians in their decision-making process,” said Connor Landgraf, CEO and co-founder at Eko. “Given the 7 million heart disease patients in the UK, this has tremendous potential to help clinicians who are less specialised in cardiovascular medicine to detect and manage heart problems, saving significant NHS resources. The product has seen a strong uptake in the US, and we are confident with the feedback from UK clinicians that the digital stethoscope will soon become widely adopted in the UK and European markets too.”
As with so many medical devices, the next stage is to develop algorithms that automatically provide diagnoses support to users. This would allow the kind of remote usage mentioned above, as it would allow nurses to use the device and utilize algorithms to gain a degree of insight their knowledge may not permit them get ordinarily.