FDA-approved algorithms can inform clinicians of heart abnormalities

Eko/Courtesy

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Eko, a Berkeley-based cardiac screening and monitoring company founded by UC Berkeley alumni, gained approval from the Food and Drug Administration for algorithms that screen heart murmurs and atrial fibrillation, which will pair with its artificial intelligence-powered, or AI, stethoscope.

Jason Bellet, Eko co-founder and chief operations officer, said about 40,000 physicians across 4,000 hospitals currently use Eko’s stethoscope technology to amplify heart sounds and better capture digital recordings. The new algorithms allow Eko’s AI technology to provide health advice to clinicians.

About 4 million clinicians in the United States and 30 million clinicians globally use generic stethoscopes for physical exams, according to Bellet.

“There’s so much subjectivity and variability when doctors have to listen for abnormalities,” Bellet said. “We wanted to help doctors detect disease and abnormal heart sounds and lung sounds using a stethoscope that would actually give advice to the clinician.”

Eko co-founders Bellet, Connor Landgraf and Tyler Crouch founded Eko with the idea to create a stethoscope that could help doctors and nurses better understand and detect heart diseases when listening to a patient’s heart during a physical exam in 2014 during their senior year on campus, according to Bellet.

After six years of development and collaboration with health systems across the country, Eko’s new algorithms have been approved by the FDA, according to Bellet. Now, Eko is in the process of piloting the algorithms at several clinics and hopes to roll out the final product within the next couple of months.

“We’re really the first to provide a platform that allows clinicians, using their stethoscope, to get real-time insight into what they’re listening to using FDA-cleared algorithms,” Bellet said. “We really see our competition as ushering in this new era and showing clinicians the value of having supported these amplifications.”

The current AI found in Eko’s digital stethoscope connects to a mobile app, which clinicians can use to visualize heart, lung or bowel sounds and electrocardiogram rhythms, according to Eko’s website.

Bellet said Eko’s plans for the future include developing the technology to expand upon the types of diseases the stethoscope AI can detect.

He added that Eko is working with the Mayo Clinic on a newer algorithm for screening heart failure that recently gained a “breakthrough indication” from the FDA, meaning its approval is in the process of being fast-tracked but has yet to be cleared.

“With a tool that has the accuracy of the cardiologist in being able to pick up disease, and really elevates your physician’s ability to hear, it … puts the patient’s mind at ease,” Bellet said. “It’s all about patient enablement and access to great care and it’s about fighting disease earlier so that patients can optimize their options to treat it.”

Olivia Buccieri is the lead business and economy reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @obuccieri_dc‏.