Digital Stethoscope Can Identify Lung Abnormalities Related to COVID-19

The cost-effective tool identifies lung abnormalities.

A digital stethoscope called Feelix may help providers identify lung abnormalities related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Stethoscopes, a key instrument for any healthcare provider, can experience high levels of environmental noise, making it difficult to properly diagnose a patient. Instead, a digital stethoscope that uses artificial intelligence (AI) can take recordings and telemeter them to physicians virtually, allowing them to maintain social distancing and reduce exposure to COVID-19, James West, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, said in a press release.

Feelix was initially designed to be versatile and cost effective. It was developed to support community health workers in low- and middle-income countries where diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis are common, Brandon Dottin-Haley, chief business development officer, Sonavi Labs, said in a statement to Chief Healthcare Executive™.

Spectrum tests are currently used to address such diseases, so West, along with Sonavi Labs, developed a repeatable solution that Dottin-Haley said comes to a cost of pennies per test versus upwards of $10 for a wet lab test. Further, MRIs and ultrasounds are significantly more expensive than Feelix and are often limited in availability.

“Providing Feelix as a remote monitoring solution to patients managing chronic conditions also reduces the peripheral costs associated with receiving healthcare,” Dottin-Haley said. “Time away from work and school, travel expenses, and even medication costs can be reduced with better management through digital health technology.

The digital stethoscope has noise suppression to enhance the auditory signal from the lungs.

“The noise suppression is a critical aspect that allows it to be used in even challenging clinics, like we see popping up with increased COVID hospitalizations,” West said in the release.

What’s more, no training is required. The noise suppression runs automatically on the device.

The technology may be used as an additional tool to spirometry, the most common type of pulmonary function or breathing test. Such a test is used to measure the amount of air a patient can breathe in and out of their lungs, along with how easily and fast the air can be blown out. Spirometry is typically ordered if a patient is experiencing wheezing, shortness of breath, or a cough, and can help diagnose diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Then, combinations therapies such as long-acting beta-2 agonists and long-acting muscarinic antagonists can be used together to relieve symptoms.

The digital stethoscope from Sonavi Labs has been in development for over six years and has been tested rigorously to ensure the best accuracy and sound quality. In fact, recent study findings showed Feelix could detect pneumonia in pediatric patients with a 17% greater accuracy than if they were using WHO guidelines, Dottin-Haley said. Another study demonstrated the technology could grade the severity of respiratory abnormalities and was effective at determining the efficacy of therapies and treatments.

“There is a Feelix for everyone and we are working to ensure that everyone has access to this technology,” Dottin-Haley said. “We are working to ensure that Feelix is advanced, affordable, and accessible to anyone anywhere.”