Can't You Hear My Heartbeat: Personal Patient Stethoscopes Cross Telehealth Divide

Can you imagine getting your own free stethoscope to use at home for telehealth exams with your doctor?

Sounds pretty cool -- even for those who never played doctor when they were kids.

The idea started during the pandemic, when patients who turned to telehealth still needed to visit healthcare providers (HCPs) in-person for breathing or cardiovascular problems. After all, doctors could hardly use a virtual stethoscope to listen to a patient’s lungs or heart, right?

Fast-forward to 2023, and doctors can do just that, thanks to Medaica, a startup that has just launched its M1 Stethoscope.

Here’s how it works: Patients, holding the stethoscope to their chests, connect to a mobile or Chrome app, while the HCP uses secure software to get the incoming data.

“For live exams, as well as instructing the patient verbally, the online clinician can move a cursor/target on the patient’s screen,” says Stephen Randall, Medaica’s chief executive officer. This, “is often easier than just asking them to move the stethoscope up, down, left or right.”

Patients can either take live exams with their HCPs, or self-exams without someone on the screen.

For self exams, the screen “displays a body map with auscultation points to follow. The clinician can specify the positions they need the patient to record.”

While virtual healthcare appointments may be a thing of the past for most post-pandemic patients, it’s often still far easier for doctors to reach rural and underserved consumers virtually than in person.

And it’s far easier for people with chronic heart and/or lung conditions in those groups, since Medaica is serving up its in-home stethoscope to them for free.

“In the U.S. today, there are around 30 million people who are more than an hour away from their doctors,” Randall tells Pharma & Health Insider. “These patients often say they don’t use telehealth because they don’t think the doctor can truly examine them.”

Medaica markets its stethoscope through HCPs, with Randall saying, “We are working with partners who have specifically asked us to help them with patients who are less mobile, too far away, or chronic patients who can’t take time off of work.”

Medaica isn’t the first firm to get Food and Drug Administration approval for an in-home stethoscope. A company called TytoCare got there first, but with a “product that is modular and includes a stethoscope among other medical devices,” Randall says. “We took a different approach in designing a simple, affordable, plug and play, non-proprietary solution.”

So affordable, in fact, that the stethoscope itself is free not only to patients, but also to their doctors, although there is a price.

“Our partners can choose to either pay per each use, or contract for a number of exams that bring them incremental revenue,” explains Randall.

“We enable more revenue by opening up new specialties to telehealth providers, and enabling more patients and more regular exams to healthcare providers, as well as creating greater efficiencies and better outcomes,” he continues.

Medaica will work with HCPs on how best to deliver the stethoscopes to patients, whether it’s direct to the consumer or using the doctor as middleperson. “It really depends on the needs and workflows of the HCPs. We will support whatever makes life easier for them, because at the end of the day, we succeed when we enable HCPs to better serve their patients.”

Medaica this year also launched a platform called Telehealth+ for healthcare providers, but the stethoscopes are available to HCPs using other platforms, as well.

While, for now, “we are working with large hospitals and leading cardiologists and pulmonologists, specifically focused on rural, underserved and chronic challenges,” Randall says that future plans call for expansion beyond that and a move to part-D2C “when doctors and patients are more familiar with ‘digital first’ solutions.”

“We have designed the device and platform for consumer scale,” he notes.

"We believe that telehealth's ultimate potential will be realized when millions of patients can be examined as effectively on-line as they can in clinic,” Randall said in announcing the product launch. “Consumerizing the stethoscope is the first step in making that a reality, while reducing the burden of understaffed clinics."


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