Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. and around the world, but rapid, early screening options are still few and far between. Digital stethoscope developer Eko hopes to change that, with the launch of a new version of its app that aims to make artificial intelligence-powered cardiac analysis much more widely available.
With the new Eko app installed on a mobile device of their choice, healthcare providers who use the company's digital stethoscopes will be able to analyze readings with Eko’s AI algorithms, which were cleared by the FDA in early 2020 to detect heart murmur and atrial fibrillation—all at no charge. That’s a significant change from Eko’s previous model, which required a “Pro” subscription plan starting at $50 per month to access the algorithms.
However, a paid telehealth subscription will still be required if users want to be able to livestream the heart sounds and ECG readings from their stethoscopes in real time.
“Frontline healthcare professionals are our best line of defense in catching cardiovascular disease early on, but they are challenged to do so by outdated tools, insufficient time, and inadequate resources,” said Eko CEO Connor Landgraf. “With a disease that is so pervasive in our society, it is imperative that we provide every healthcare professional with a solution that helps them diagnose with more confidence and give their patients the best care possible. This is how we’ll save millions of lives in the coming years.”
Eko’s AI has been proven in clinical studies to automatically detect both heart murmurs and afib with similar accuracy to trained professionals.
One such study, for example, concluded that the heart murmur algorithm performed with sensitivity and specificity rates of just under 88%. The afib AI, meanwhile, achieved sensitivity of nearly 99%, with specificity of almost 97%.
Equipped with the algorithms, the app guides physicians through a four-point assessment to get the most accurate analysis of a stethoscope reading. They can also perform a 15-second “spot check” to look for afib and murmurs in a recording taken from a single position.
Once the exams are done, they can store the readings, their annotations and the resulting reports in the app and easily send them to another device via email with just a few taps on the screen.
The app only works in conjunction with Eko’s digital stethoscope technology. The $300 3M Littmann Core stethoscope and $200 Core digital attachment—which turns any existing stethoscope into a “smart” device—can each be used with the heart murmur algorithm, while the $350 Duo stethoscope also performs ECG readings, making it compatible with the afib AI, too.
The wider release of Eko’s heart murmur and afib algorithms comes as the company is actively developing new AI to detect other indicators of heart disease and failure.
A study published earlier this year found that a new algorithm built in partnership with the Mayo Clinic was able to identify signs of low ejection fraction in the Duo stethoscope’s 15-second readings with accuracy of at least 81%, and up to 86% if readings were taken from multiple locations. The AI was given the FDA’s breakthrough device designation at the end of 2019, and Eko said it would submit the algorithm for authorization through that expedited pathway later this year.