What should be today’s standard of care when it comes to auscultation? We think it should be an electronic stethoscope. In this day and age it is truly perplexing why a majority of doctors and RNs still use neolithic stethoscopes. They hunch over their patients like their ancestors did one hundred years ago, and they try to listen to the muffled distant sounds of hearts and lungs. They typically do it in noisy environments, often through gowns, and often nowadays through miles of subcutaneous fat. And when clinicians hit the magic age of 60, they start to believe that their auscultation skills are just getting better, while all sensory (and reproductive) organs tell otherwise. These clinicians don’t know what they are missing! And what a great experience they are missing! Taking care of patients with an advanced electronic stethoscope is truly a pleasure and a sign of professionalism.
When we were offered to review the Eko Core stethoscope, we thought we will be reviewing just another electronic amplifier. Turns out Eko is much more than that. It is a whole suit of technologies that power not only auscultation, but also processing, visualization and EMR storage of sounds. We think that medical practice (and risk management dogs) are going to demand storage of auscultation sounds in EMRs with the rest of the data in a not too distant future. After all, what’s so different between storing auscultation sounds vs storing echo images?
We tested Eko Core for over a month in a busy clinical practice in the hospital and in the clinic, and we were very pleased with the device. Actually, we were smitten with it. It is sturdy, stylish, and is extremely well designed. It folds properly in a front pocket as well as in the back pocket of the scrub, which is a no small matter for a clinician on the go. The stethoscope sits over the ears without unpleasant pressures, and it comes with additional ear attachments to accommodate various ear opening sizes.
The device delivers clear amplified sounds of the heart and lungs. The sounds are natural, with no hint of anything synthetic and without aberrations, and the auscultation sounds are right there between your ears: bold, loud, and vivid.
On one charge via a typical USB charger, the device lasted for over two weeks. One minor problem (and really the only problem that we found with the device), is its on/off button. When we forgot to turn it off, the battery got depleted overnight. If this happens to you, don’t despair! The Eko Core stethoscope works both ways. Without a charge, Eko becomes a neolithic stethoscope (with a hint of political correctness, the company calls this mode “analog”). As far as the neolithic mode goes, it sounds as exciting as the good old days of Littmann and HP Rappaport Sprague. All the same, it takes only about 40 minutes to fully charge Eko Core. (A company rep tells Medgadget that future models will be featuring an automatic shutoff feature to prevent battery depletion.)
On its website the company touts the sound filtering technology inside the stethoscope, but we can’t say much about it, as we are (1) not really audiophiles; (2) this reviewer has been diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, hence has constant tinnitus and a minor hearing deficit. So we will take the sound filtering technology at face value. All we can say is that the stethoscope sounds absolutely great, works well on adults and pediatric patients, and we were very pleased to use it.
Here’s another marvelously executed part of the Eko Core system. You can save, process, and share sound data using your mobile devices. There are so many aspects to the software part that we will not be able to review all of them. But, in a nutshell, this’s how it works. When you get your stethoscope, you download the app and connect the stethoscope to your iPhone, iPad, or Android device via Bluetooth. It takes seconds for the iPhone to find the connection. For us it worked without a glitch: the software found the device and the stethoscope was online in seconds.
When you perform an auscultation exam, keep your iPhone handy: the software will automatically navigate you to record, store, or share the sounds. You can annotate and attribute recorded sounds to specific regions of the chest or back, say aortic valve region for heart sounds, or upper left for lungs. (Attributing sounds to specific locations is optional. You can just record the sounds on their own if you wish to.)
The sharing part is HIPAA compliant, and you can share the recordings with colleagues or save it to an EMR. You can also receive recordings from other clinicians and hear them right there in the stethoscope. So the stethoscope is not only a recording device, but also a playback device, which is pretty neat! The company provides other software options: live streaming of auscultation for remote live monitoring, an educational library of sounds, and MP3 recordings to download.
Finally, the software comes with a predefined PDF template to issue a full auscultation report of your findings, for billing and compliance.
Call us crazy, but we put Eko Core digital stethoscope through another important task: listening to cicadas and crickets at night to see how it amplifies ambient sounds. The result is pretty conclusive: you can use the stethoscope to record and investigate your loved ones and neighbors. It doesn’t get any better than that!
The Eko Core digital stethoscope is a great technology. It is simple, intuitive, stylish, practical, and like other great technologies, it opens variety of new horizons for its users. Whether it is education, sound amplification, EMR storage, or serial follow up of patients, Eko Core will get the job done. It is great as a gift for clinicians at any stage of their professional life.
Our respect goes to the founders of this innovative startup. We think they did an incredible job developing an excellent device and integrating it with a suit of software that is easy to use, clinically relevant, and that is ready for a future where auscultation becomes an integral part of the EMR.
Now if you got this far in the story, you may be excited to know that we’ll be giving away an Eko Core during a contest we’ll be hosting in the coming days to guess the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Please stay tuned to Medgadget so you don’t miss your chance to win.
Finally, check out the company’s promo video of the Eko Core to get a better idea of what it’s like:
The reviewer and Medgadget have not received any compensation for this story.
Product page: Eko Core…