The Smart Magazine About Medical Technology Innovations

#22 - FIME 2016 Special Issue

The Renaissance of Auscultation


The HD Steth front head (Courtesy of HD Medical)

HD Medical has revealed at FIME its HD Steth: a digital smart auscultation device that looks and feels like a regular stethoscope. Almost 200 years after French physician René Laennec invented the first stethoscope, this smartphone-connected innovation is likely to be one of the most revolutionary advancements in auscultation.


Since 2005, California-based company HD Medical has been working on designing medical products to detect heart conditions early. Their first-generation devices, such as the ViScope MD, enable healthcare professionals to observe heart signals on a screen attached to the device.

“We were working with world famous cardiologist Dr. Nelson Schiller, and jointly assessed that auscultation is becoming a lost art. For example, it is difficult to hear certain sounds—especially for older doctors. In order to make diagnoses bullet-proof, we added a real-time visual component to our devices,” Kristi Furrer, senior director of marketing at HD Medical, explained the story behind their technology to us.

With HD Steth, HD Medical is taking things one step further. The device aims at integrating seamlessly into existing clinical workflows, thereby following a general design trend of connecting digital experiences with familiar manual elements. “HD Steth is based on the same technology as the ViScope, which is already FDA-approved and CE-certified. However, it has a brand-new form factor, which is much more like a traditional stethoscope,” said Kristi Furrer.

This early stethoscope belonged to Laennec (Courtesy of Science Museum, London)

This early stethoscope belonged to Laennec (Courtesy of Science Museum, London)

On the earpiece end of HD Steth, users can listen to the internal sounds of the body in high-fidelity audio. The chestpiece has a digital readout of the heart rate on the front side, and three gold-plated ECG (electrocardiogram) leads on the reverse. Users can transfer the patient auscultation data via Bluetooth to their smartphone, where the HD Steth app displays and analyzes ECG and PCG (phonocardiogram) signals in real time.

A Relevant Tool for Tele-Health Initiatives

There are algorithms embedded in the application, which interpret the heart wave forms and indicate whether there is a murmur. According to our clinical trials at UCSF and in India, the heart murmur algorithm has 96 percent accuracy,” Kristi Furrer told us. The app can also store patient data, and send it to specialists or EMR (electronic medical record) systems, making HD Steth likely to become a relevant tool for tele-health initiatives.

The HD Steth (Courtesy of HD Medical)

The HD Steth (Courtesy of HD Medical)

HD Steth is being announced worldwide, starting with the U.S. during the FIME Conference in early August with general announcement planned for early Q4. The worldwide rollout will then be moving on to Germany, the Middle East, and Japan. “We see HD Steth as a device for all kinds of medical personnel and healthcare organizations. Eventually we will also have a version called HD Scope for consumers,” said Kristi Furrer. HD Steth will retail for $400.

However, healthcare professionals are able to have the device quickly paid for itself, as HD Steth meets Medicare reimbursement requirements for ECG and reporting. The company is currently negotiating similar reimbursement plans for markets outside the U.S.

About the Author

Christina Kuhrcke is a Berlin-based freelance journalist, doctor and digital storyteller.

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