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GP tests out connected stethoscope, cleared for NHS use

A digitally connected stethoscope from a Silicon Valley startup is now available in the UK and promises to change patient-doctor interaction

Eko Devices, a digital medical device company, has introduced a digital stethoscope in the UK that enables doctors to record cardiac and pulmonary screenings as audio files.

The stethoscope has just received its CE certificate, making it the first and only digital stethoscope to wirelessly pair with a mobile device, allowing clinicians to securely record, save, annotate and share sounds with experts for a second opinion.

Connor Landgraf, CEO and co-founder of Eko Devices, said: “Given the 7 million heart disease patients in the UK, this has tremendous potential to help clinicians who are less specialised in cardiovascular to detect and manage heart problems, saving significant NHS resources.”

Dr Keith Grimes, a GP and “digital healthcare innovator”, based in Eastbourne, has trialled the device after meeting the founder of Eko at Medical X, a conference that explores the future of healthcare. He said he had begun using the device alongside his traditional stethoscope.

Although digital devices have existed in the past to monitor heart and pulmonary conditions, Grimes said the latest device’s ability to save the audio as a file gave clinicians a lot of flexibility.

“With Eko, I can move the audio file to a patient’s clinical record to share with a specialist,” he told Computer Weekly.

This has two advantages for healthcare professionals, said Grimes: “It facilitates remote care and can also be shared with patients to transform their understanding of what is going on.”

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Grimes said that once it was in a digital format, the audio captured could be used in machine learning.

Eko is also developing a way to analyse the audio, enabling clinicians to understand what they are listening to. For example, the company said a nurse listening to a patient could run the audio output from the Eko digital stethoscope device against an algorithm, which would then determine whether a referral was required.

With increasing pressure on the NHS, self-monitoring is one of the ideas the health service is looking at to reduce clinicians’ workload.

This, combined with machine learning from internet-connected healthcare devices, could change the way patients are diagnosed.

“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 Grimes. “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 a really interesting aspect.”

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