By Wil Jacques, MBA, USPTO Registered Practitioner
After 200 years, one of the most iconic symbols of medical care is rapidly evolving. The stethoscope, dangling from the neck of every doctor in real life (and on television), is getting an electronic makeover with potential for more accurate diagnoses, cost savings and expansion into areas such as telemedicine.
In an industry increasingly crowded with gadgets and apps, the electronic stethoscope is an elegant digital solution that bridges the diagnostic gap between the human ear and expensive MRIs, ultrasounds or electrocardiograms. The e-stethoscope field is small, but growing, with the introduction of new approaches that supplement or even bypass the diagnostician’s ear.
For example, technology developed by leading researcher Dr. Michael Savic would allow automatic diagnosis of lung disease without hospitalization, expensive tests or guesswork. A modified stethoscope picks up sound signals from the chest for computer analysis and can recognize attributes of lung disease including asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and cystic fibrosis.
Savic, a former full professor and director of the Signal and Speech Research Laboratory at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is a world renowned expert in the field of Signal Processing. His patented technology (U.S. Patent No. 7,479,115 B2) is a futuristic approach to disease diagnosis made by sound analysis. In addition to lung diseases, the approach is applicable for sound analysis of the heart and other organs.
The non-invasive tool performs diagnosis via auscultation, or interpretation of body sounds, using regressive algorithms and does not rely on any one individual’s bias, experience or training. This approach creates an opportunity to rely on nurses or other practitioners in the diagnostic process, especially in remote areas where fewer doctors are available.
Related diagnostic developments point to similar innovations and pathways.
For example, Sunmeditec markets a digital stethoscope system using heart-and-lung sound diagnostic algorithms. This tool is promoted to veterinarians for use on animals under the Wise Pets brand.
The remote use of similar technology is being explored by scientists at the University of Melbourne (and startup CliniCloud) who are developing “StethoCloud.” This mobile app uses a digital electronic stethoscope that plugs into a smart phone and connects to a server for analysis. Marketing touts the ability to diagnose conditions like pneumonia “without the need for a doctor.”
Recent news from Eko, manufacturer of the Eko CORE digital stethoscope, cites release of an interesting new device – dubbed the Eko DUO – that provides ECG and auscultation capabilities for heart and lung sounds in a mobile package. Eko, a leader in the space, shows the trajectory of disruption is imminent and trending up.
What are the factors driving e-stethoscope innovation?
Who are key emerging providers in this field?
Conclusion and market outlook:
As demand for more innovative products rises, the existing stethoscope market is a prime target and is positioned for further disruption by electronic diagnostic tools. Growth in the electronic segment is already outpacing traditional stethoscopes. The respiratory disease market is estimated at $2 billion and the global stethoscope market is estimated to reach $342 million this year (2017), with the e-stethoscope market estimated at $180 million.
Contact for additional information:
Wil Jacques | firstname.lastname@example.org | 860-214-6043