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New medical device captures sounds of the lungs and heart

Posted: May 28, 2014 2:41 p.m.
Updated: May 28, 2014 2:41 p.m.
Using a device connected to a stethoscope, a patient can upload his heart sounds to a cardiologist for review. InstaMD/Courtesy Photo Using a device connected to a stethoscope, a patient can upload his heart sounds to a cardiologist for review. InstaMD/Courtesy Photo
Using a device connected to a stethoscope, a patient can upload his heart sounds to a cardiologist for review. InstaMD/Courtesy Photo

Entrepreneurs have designed a new medical device system that will help usher medical care into the 21st century using existing consumer technology that both lay people and professionals can easily access.

Operating in Valencia, InstaMD is readying itself to secure manufacturing seed money and is nearly ready to submit its application to the Food and Drug Administration.

The startup company plans to submit an application to the FDA within a month, and expects a reply in less than two months because it is not making a new device, but rather adapting an existing FDA approved device – the stethoscope.

An interventional cardiologist in Southern California for 25 years, Dr. Subbarao Myla and his engineering and computer software team have designed an adapter that connects with a high-fidelity stethoscope to pick up heart and lung sounds, which can then be uploaded to a computer and sent as a file over to a physician. The sounds can also become part of a patient-protected live video teleconferencing call between the patient and cardiologist, Myla said.

Patient care is changing as a result of the Affordable Healthcare Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, include providing healthcare organizations with incentives to provide patients with preventative care and, in some cases, penalties for hospitals if the patient relapses within 30 days. Providing physicians access to better tools that allow them to monitor critical care situations is something Myla believes has long range potential, and scalability.

InstaMD’s new tool is something Myla has plenty of knowledge about. He is the medical director of the Cardiac and Endovascular Labs and Cardiovascular Research at Hoag Heart and Vascular Institute at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach.

Using an adapter that fits into the stethoscope to convert analog sounds to pristine digital sounds without picking up background noise. InstaMD uses an existing headset product to serve as a barrier, eliminating external sounds, Myla said.

The team has also designed a software application allowing the audio files, much like a music file, to be uploaded to a computer from the adapter and accessed by the doctor as a digital file. InstaMD Web App works on any computer with Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer.

And there is also video conferencing capability that operates with Apple iOS on a desktop, laptop, iPad or iPhone using either the Chrome or Firefox browser. With no installation necessary, video-consulting between the patient and the doctor is just one click away with the device system, Myla said. The simplicity of device is that it uses products familiar to consumers.

“This is a universal adapter,” Myla said. “The goal is not to reinvent each and every little clinical tool but to use existing ones that many consumers already have, and to find ways to integrate products to give intelligent information to caregiver’s physician.”

And the beauty of the InstaMD device system is that as more and more people have the knowledge and capability of uploading their own digital audio files, the lay community can transfer critical information to specialists.

It’s a very low-cost device, making it economical and efficient process of securing care. Think of it as a mobile community health center, Myla said.

“The future healthcare innovations must keep in mind the value. It is not enough to come up with latest, greatest technology that is so prohibitively expensive that patients and providers have to think hard and keep in mind the cost of the innovations,” he said.

InstaMD also has many potential applications. Limited healthcare options in remote rural areas in the U.S. or globally would be resolved if patients could access specialists to review their medical stability remotely, Myla said.

The system would also work for people while travelling, high school sport athletes who need a cardiologist to review their heart sounds, patients being released from the hospital or even walk-in patients at clinics set up in pharmacies. But the device would also benefit hospitals, according to Myla.

Cardiologists typically see patients in acute care phase and upon release from the hospital need to follow up as much as is required for care, or allowed by insurance. The device has the potential to break the gap and allow more frequent monitoring of heart signs if needed.

Under Obamacare, Myla said, if a patient needs to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days, the hospital has to absorb the costs of the second admission. He estimates that 25 percent of all cardiac patients are readmitted to a hospital within 30 days. But patients tend to be in better health when they can remain safely at home.

Patients who are readmitted tend to have more problems, he said.

The InstaMD device will keep a patient connected to the doctor as frequently as possible so that medications can be adjusted as needed. A physician can assess whether heart failure is approaching by listening, remotely, for signs of fluid backing up from the lungs into the heart, or determine whether too much fluid was suctioned out in the treatment process driving the blood pressure down. The device takes the guess work out of the equation for post-hospital treatments stay because doctors can more easily stay in touch and continue to monitor the vital heart sounds.

At the specialty level, health care resources are limited but there are seven billion hearts in the world right now,” Myla said. “But there are not enough cardiologists capable of listening.”

Today, InstaMD is in discussions with some businesses who manufacture highly advanced heart valves. And the company just launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise seed money for startup manufacturing costs. The company, however, is also working to acquire $1 to $2 million in outside funding as well. The product debuted at a Silicon Valley entrepreneur’s conference in mid-May to test the company’s marketing strategy.

In the future people will expect medical care to be a more accessible and continuous on a 24/7 basis based on changes in the healthcare landscape and because we live in a society of instant gratification,” Myla said.

The technology behind the InstaMD device has other future applications that the team is already looking at such as wireless Bluetooth capability or an ear piece to examine the ear drum of a crying child with an earache.

“We think we will be very successful. This is an unmet need and we have a deep understanding of the nuances and series of steps that are necessary to bring this to market. We’re confident it will improve healthcare in these times,” Myla said.


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