NCH piloting the use of smart stethoscopes

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

We’re all accustomed to our doctor using a stethoscope to listen to our heart at just about every visit. It’s one of the most fundamental screening tools. Now, thanks to artificial intelligence, the stethoscope just got a whole lot smarter.

Heart rate is one of several metrics that give doctors a better read on your health.

“We listen to the neck, we listen to the heart, we listen for abnormal heart sounds, we listen to the lungs for abnormal breath sounds. So stethoscopes, very important,” explained NCH internal medicine specialist Dr. Bryan Murphey.

Most of us recognize the standard scope; it is a low-tech piece of equipment. Today, the tried-and-true stethoscope is turning into a handheld smart device, using AI to take a deeper look at heart function.

“The stethoscope listens to the patient’s heart sounds and analyzes those sounds against a million known heart sounds and tells me if they’re detecting a narrowed heart valve or a leaky heart valve, it says if there is an abnormality, structural heart disease in the patient,” Murphey said.

It processes a lot of data in less than two minutes. The stethoscope’s sensor is placed on three locations around the heart for 30 seconds. It doesn’t feel any different to patients. Results come back in real-time.

NCH primary care doctors are testing two devices. The newest is the Eko. “And this particular stethoscope also has built-in three lead ECG to look for atrial fibrillation and with a sensor or platform looking for atrial fibrillation, other cardiac arrhythmias, as well as low ejection fraction of the heart,” said Dr. Murphey.

This is the first health system in the U.S. to put AI stethoscopes into widespread use.

Dr. Murphey said, “We found tremendous benefit. We screened over 1000 patients, and we found 136 new patients that we didn’t know that had structural heart disease.”

Fifteen offices are now using the smart scopes, helping doctors detect issues before they become problems, keeping their pulse on technology and their patients.

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