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The Shazam Of Heartbeats: Here's How Eko Health Helps Bridge Gaps In Cardiac Care Unlike conventional stethoscopes that transmit sound through traditional tubing, Eko Health's device leverages digital technology to capture and analyze heart sounds with unparalleled precision.

By Erika Masako Welch

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Eko Health

Digital disruption and transformation have come to one of the most ubiquitous and oldest medical devices used by physicians around the world: the stethoscope.

First invented by French physician Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laënnec in 1816, the stethoscope helped him investigate sounds made by the heart and lungs to determine diagnoses supported by observations made during autopsies.

American healthtech startup Eko Health is at the forefront of re-inventing this device, bringing cutting-edge digital technology to revolutionize stethoscopes. As the pioneers of this sonic revolution, Eko Health is not just re-imagining traditional medical devices; they are reshaping the landscape of diagnostics using artificial intelligence (AI)-powered algorithms to detect cardiac issues at the first point of contact with healthcare professionals.

Unlike conventional stethoscopes that transmit sound through traditional tubing, Eko Health's device leverages digital technology to capture and analyze heart sounds with unparalleled precision. This evolution allows for more nuanced and accurate assessments, providing healthcare providers with a comprehensive understanding of a patient's cardiovascular health.

THE HEART OF THE MATTER

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States since 1950. One person dies every 33 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, each year, approximately one-third of all deaths are attributable to heart disease in the United States; yet, 2-4% of people with a heart attack are sent home in error. Though heart disease is the leading cause of death across all races and sex, rates of cardiac disease related deaths does vary by ethnic groups. Eko Health is on a mission to make highly accurate digital care ubiquitous and save millions of lives, particularly people from under-resourced groups.

Connor Landgraf, Jason Bellet, and Tyler Crouch, co-founders, Eko Health. Source: Eko Health.

The significance of Eko Health's digital stethoscopes becomes even more evident when considering the persistent challenge of limited access to specialized cardiac care, particularly in remote and rural areas, or simply underserved communities. Rural communities around the world suffer from significant disparities in cardiovascular health. With a shortage of cardiac specialists globally, there is a pressing need for solutions that empower general practitioners, nurses, and even at-home care workers to manage cardiac issues effectively.

Eko Health's digital stethoscopes act as a powerful equalizer, bridging the gap between urban centers and remote healthcare facilities. By integrating artificial intelligence into the diagnostic process, and collecting thousands of heartbeat sounds onto the cloud, these devices enable healthcare providers to go beyond mere auscultation, providing a deeper understanding of cardiac conditions.

In early 2023, Eko Health unveiled the SENSORA Cardiac Disease Detection Platform, designed to complement their digital stethoscopes with intelligent software. SENSORA employs AI to accurately detect structural murmurs, a vital marker of valvular heart disease (VHD), and when coupled with Care Pathway Analytics software, it delivers valuable insights into the patient's healthcare journey. This innovation greatly improves the ability of healthcare systems to consistently and accurately spot VHD during regular visits to primary care physicians.

Valvular heart disease is a critical condition affecting over eight million Americans and poses a significant threat if left untreated. Its complications can include heart failure, stroke, blood clots, and even death. Shockingly, more than half (57%) of clinically significant cases of valvular heart disease in older adults go unnoticed. However, when primary care physicians utilize SENSORA for structural murmur detection, their chances of identifying significant VHD more than double. This breakthrough technology has the potential to make a substantial impact on healthcare outcomes.

Related: 10 Insights On The Business of Healthtech In The MENA Region

THE SHAZAM OF HEARTBEATS

The lack of accessibility to specialized cardiac care for many communities around the world poses a significant challenge to ensuring timely diagnosis and intervention. Eko Health recognized this gap, and embarked on a mission to democratize cardiac care, making it accessible to every corner of the globe. By developing a digital stethoscope and a unique database of heartbeat sounds, Eko Health empowers healthcare providers in rural areas to become the first line of defense against cardiac issues.

Source: Eko Health.

Eko Health's digital stethoscope serves as the linchpin in their innovative approach to cardiac diagnostics. Often referred to as the "Shazam of heartbeats," this device captures and analyzes heart sounds with the precision of a symphony conductor. The AI-supported diagnostic tool decodes the intricate language of heartbeats, offering healthcare providers a window into the cardiovascular health of their patients. Today, Eko Health has served millions of patients and supported over 400,000 clinicians.

Eko Health was founded in 2013 by Connor Landgraf, Jason Bellet, and Tyler Crouch after seeing the limitations of traditional stethoscopes while studying biomedical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Eko's first product, which was an attachment for traditional stethoscopes with a compatible smartphone application, received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015. The startup has since received FDA clearance for two other devices, and in 2018, Eko's screening algorithm developed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic was awarded the "Breakthrough Device" designation from the FDA.

The team has also raised over US$125 million in capital thus far for their AI powered cardiac disease detection platform. In a testament to the transformative potential of Eko Health's mission, Better Ventures wrote the very first institutional check to invest in Eko Health. The Silicon Valley-based impact venture capital (VC) firm has raised its fourth fund, and in its 12th year, it has successfully made 64 investments in total that have impacted 10 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Currently, Better Ventures has $108 million in assets under management, and are predominantly looking at the sustainability, health, and economic opportunity sectors. Its founding partners, Wes Selke and Rick Moss, say their founding investment thesis still rings true today: "Mission-driven founders outperform, thanks to the magnetic force of purpose."

Better Ventures invests primarily in pre-seed and seed stage science and technology startups with the potential to transform the economy in ways that will create impact at scale and generate outsized financial returns. Better Ventures, a certified B-Corp, measures their impact via five portfolio wide metrics including people served, metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided or reduced, and quality jobs facilitated. These metrics map directly to the widely recognized impact standards of SDGs and IRIS+ (an impact measurement and management system created by the Global Impact Investing Network) indicators. As for Eko, Rick Moss, Partner at Better Ventures, said the team recognized the potential of the startup's technology to revolutionize healthcare, and bring about a paradigm shift in cardiac diagnostics rightaway.

In the heart of every community lies the potential for a healthcare revolution. Eko Health's commitment to transforming cardiac care in underserved communities is not just a technological feat, but a testament to the human spirit's ability to innovate and uplift. With Better Ventures standing firmly behind this vision, the symphony of innovation continues, promising a future where every heartbeat is understood, every story is heard, and every individual has equal access to the care they deserve.

Explore how impact investing aligns capital with positive societal and environmental outcomes- check out our special report on impact investing here.

This article was originally published on Lucidity Insights, a partner of Entrepreneur Middle East in developing special reports on the Middle East and Africa's tech and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Related: Entrepreneur Middle East And Lucidity Insights Launch New Report On The State Of The US$244 Billion Healthtech Industry In The MENA Region

Erika Masako Welch

Chief Content Officer, Lucidity Insights

Erika Masako Welch is the Chief Content Officer of Lucidity Insights.
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