Eko’s stethoscope shows the potential of digital technology to reinvent health care

Eko’s stethoscope shows the potential of digital technology to reinvent health care

About 200 years ago a French physician rolled a sheet of paper into a cylinder and held it up to the chest of a patient. The creation was crude and simple, but it worked. Rene Laenneac could better hear his patient’s heartbeat, and the stethoscope was born.

Today, the stethoscope remains a fixture in medicine, draped around the shoulders of doctors. It’s also overdo for a makeover.

Now Eko Devices, a Silicon Valley start-up, has received FDA approval for its digital stethoscope, which brings the power of modern technology to an already essential device. The implications could be huge for patient care. It’s also a reminder of the enormous potential for modern technology to improve health care, which still relies on dated technology such as fax machines to play critical roles.

The stethoscope, called the Eko Core, records the sounds of a patient’s heart and transmits them to an iPhone app. This opens the potential for heart sounds to be stored in the cloud, for clinicians to reference or to analyze en masse to heighten their understanding of the human heart. High-quality care could be provided at a lower cost. Unnecessary tests could be avoided.

“If we can bring the expert cardiologists from Johns Hopkins to the patient in rural Nebraska or the rural village in India, that opens up the opportunity to save lives,” said Jason Bellet, the chief operating officer at Eko Devices. “What we’re seeing with the age of telemedicine is now we can take a heart sound from a rural, underserved community and send that to a cardiologist for an instant second opinion.”

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