It was high time that the stethoscope, the symbol of the medical profession, was upgraded to represent the state of play in healthcare in the 21st century. Here, I reviewed the Eko Core digital stethoscope allowing the medical community to listen to lung and heart sounds crystal-clearly and digitize the results within seconds.

How shyness helped the progress of healthcare

I’m sure we are all familiar with the phenomenon that all great things have a Greek touch. The stethoscope does not differ in this respect, at least regarding its name, either. ‘Stethos’ means chest in Greek, while ‘scopos’ stands for examination. Its basic form was actually invented by the French physician René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laënnec, who published a description of the instrument in 1819. However, as the story goes, it was not medical curiosity or thirst for innovation, what led him to the invention; it was rather shyness and compliance with the overall etiquette and restricted behavioral traditions of the era.

Once the young doctor Laënnec had to examine a young woman complaining of heart problems. At that time, doctors generally listened to patients’ heartbeats by resting an ear against the patient’s chest. However, Laënnec thought this improper under the circumstances, especially as she was overweight. So, rather than getting close to the young lady, he rolled up a piece of paper; and then put one end to his ear, while the other end to the chest of the woman, and voilá! The stethoscope was born.

laennec stethoscope - Eko Core digital stethoscope

Physicians did not want to use a gadget

Although it was a simple and brilliant invention, which also fit to the etiquette of the era, it took time and effort until the medical community accepted it and started to use it widely. Listen to what the English physician John Forbes wrote in the preface for the translated version of Laënnec’s book in 1821.

“… I have no doubt whatever, from my own experience of its value, that it will be acknowledged to be one of the greatest discoveries in medicine by all those who are of a temper, and in circumstances, that will enable them to give it a fair trial. That it will ever come into general use, notwithstanding its value, I am extremely doubtful; because its beneficial application requires much time, and gives a good deal of trouble both to the patient and the practitioner; and because its whole hue and character is foreign, and opposed to all our habits and associations.”

When I talk about digital health to fellow medical professionals, sometimes I have the impression that I have to convince those 19th century doctors about the stethoscope. They are difficult to be persuaded. Usually, their only reason for their reluctance is that digital technologies are much different from current ones they are used to.

That’s why I believe that Eko’s latest innovation, the Eko Core digital stethoscope could help facilitate the adoption of digital health as it brings all the advantages of the digital era in a hardware physicians are quite familiar with, the traditional stethoscope. You are able to change from the analog to the digital mode and vice-versa only with one push of a button!

Rembrandt Anatomy Digital - Eko Core digital stethoscope

What does Eko Core offer you?

First of all, the gadget is cleared by the FDA and possesses CE clearance; so it is available on the US and European markets as an approved medical device for the price of approximately a Littmann’s stethoscope. Moreover, its apps are also HIPAA compliant; meaning it applied sensitive patient data protection measures in accordance with the recent standards. It is well-designed, stylish and its user can fold it so it fits perfectly in the pocket of doctors running around all day in a busy hospital. The stethoscope comes with additional ear attachments for various ear opening sizes, sitting correctly over the ears.

Its use is really simple, and it provides smart measurements: records heart, lung and other body sounds. And not just anyhow! In digital mode, it amplifies the heart sounds 40 times, reduces white noise and works with seven amplification levels. The live waveform on the app is supposed to display the S1 and S2 heart sounds and any murmurs or bruits present, helping especially hearing impaired clinicians. When Medgadget reviewed it, they were even able to listen to crickets and cicadas in the neighborhood.

The Eko Core has wireless smartphone connection with Bluetooth LE. Thus, medical professionals are also able to save, process and share sound data using their mobile devices. Concerning its battery life, according to the website the user is able to listen to any body sounds for 9 hours per charge. I found that the device worked for me for 21 days with one charge, which is really great!

Listen to heart beats miles away

The company offers three packages. Individual users are able to enjoy the crystal-clear lung or heart sounds with the free app. If you want to use the Eko Core for telemedical purposes, you can get the telemedicine package with the live streaming option. Institutions also have the chance to upgrade to Eko Core; and by doing so, they are able to get special administrative support as well as volume discounts from the company.

Thus, Eko Core has a unique ability as medical professionals are able to use it as a telemedical or as a medical education tool. Imagine that there is a patient in Nebraska, while you are sitting in your New York office. The doctor in Nebraska puts Eko Core to the chest of the patient, while streaming the heart or lung sounds through Eko Livestream to your digital device. Your colleague only has to invite you via e-mail in order to watch the live streaming.

You can also share the audio sounds with a classroom full of medical students from your stethoscope in real time; or connect a team of doctors dealing with perhaps an elderly patient who is not that easy to move around, with a remote clinician. Wonderful innovation!

Eko Core digital stethoscope

My experiences with the Eko Core

The digital stethoscope is very easy to install. I downloaded the app, which is available for both Android and iOS, and I logged into my own Eko profile very easily. Then, I made sure that my Eko Core device is turned on; if there is a flashing blue light, then the stethoscope is searching for the Bluetooth connection.

After seconds, the app paired itself with the stethoscope and I was ready to listen to sounds. I really liked that you can actually choose, which part of the heart or the lungs you are touching with the stethoscope for the sounds. Besides, I can choose the position of the patient and whether I am sitting, standing or lying down.

The app saves the body sounds after 15 seconds; and the user is able to save the medical finding under various patient profiles with comments. In certain electronic medical record processing system, the medical professional already has the chance to actually get this medical finding into the patients’ official medical records. I hope that this practice will spread around, since I honestly believe this is the way to go for healthcare!

However, my favorite feature of the Eko Core is still its ability to switch between a digital and an analog stethoscope with only a push of a button!

Eko Digital Stethoscope_Pros_Cons

All-in-all, the Eko Core digital stethoscope fulfills perfectly its task and its promise. At the same time, it offers a bridge between digital health and traditional medical practice. I can only recommend it to any medical professional who wants to be led smoothly into the world of digital health.

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