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The true effect of COVID on the healthcare industry probably won't truly be parsed out for months, if not years, after the pandemic finally ends. For now, though, there are a few trends that have become apparent, including the rise of telemedicine and virtual care.
That trend has been a boon to companies like Eko, which has developed smart stethoscopes and a telemedicine solution.
"COVID accelerated a trend that was already progressing, but just progressing at a slower pace. So, now we're seeing significant fractions of healthcare decisions be delivered virtually. We just thought that trend was going to take 10 years and instead it took two months," Connor Landgraf, CEO and co-founder at Eko, told me.
"It's been very, very helpful to the business; we've grown extremely rapidly this year, faster than ever before. That has been driven heavily by just the increased need for products to help physicians care for patients remotely."
That growth has, in turn, also helped attract investors: on Monday, the company announced that it raised $65 million in Series C funding in a round led by Highland Capital Partners and Questa Capital. Artis Ventures, DigiTx Partners, NTTVC, 3M Ventures, and other new and existing investors also participated. This brings Eko's total raised to $95 million.
Founded in 2013, Eko has three devices that it sells devices to individual clinicians, hospitals, departments and health systems.
Its first device is the CORE stethoscope, which amplifies sound up to 40X. It can also capture, save and share sounds and can be connected to a smart device via Bluetooth. The company also sells the DUO stethoscope, which can be used in the clinic or by patients at home; it's an ECG and digital stethoscope combined, and made to be handheld, easy to use, and very non-challenging so patients can use it.
In October, Eko unveiled it's third device, called the 3M Littmann CORE Digital Stethoscope.
"We announced a partnership with 3M Littman to build a joint product called the Littman CORE Stethoscope, which combines our digital and software capabilities with the acoustic stethoscope from 3M. We're really excited to be able to partner with the 3M brands on that and be able to deliver more digital capabilities to more physicians everywhere," Landgraf explained.
Eko's products are currently being used by tens of thousands of clinicians, representing over 4,000 hospitals, health systems, providers, urgent care clinics and others provider systems in the US and Europe. Eko's devices have screened millions of patients physical exams.
In addition to its devices, Eko has also developed machine learning algorithms to interpret that data and provide better insights; the company received FDA clearance for its algorithms to detect AFib and heart murmurs in January.
"We're able to provide not just the devices to monitor a patient and the software to connect the two, but we can provide that intelligence and interpretation on top of that. The goal is to make physicians more confident in their diagnoses," said Landgraf.
"We want to be that extra level of advice to the frontline physicians to help them feel even more confident. And that capability is really exciting for us, as it adds a tremendous amount of value to the physician and to the health systems to use it. That also helps us develop a recurring revenue business, which is obviously valuable to us as well."
The new funding will be used for Eko to expand the commercialization of its product, invest in new capabilities, and in clinical studies to demonstrate performance of its monitoring algorithms and be able to expand into new disease indications.
"We will invest in features that increase the level of, and complexity of, monitoring that can be done on our platform. So, adding in new sensor inputs, new vital sign measurements and being able to increase the amount of clinical data demonstrating efficacy for remote monitoring using our platform," said Landgraf.
The company will also use the funding to expand its telehealth program, which Landgraf told me has expanded significantly over the last year.
"If we have a heart failure patient who's at home and we want to be able to check in on that patient, and we want to have are the ability to do a virtual visit, the key features you need you have to have are video conferencing, to be able to conduct a remote exam on that patient. You need to be able to assess heart sounds and lung sounds to listen to the lungs to determine if there's congestion. And then to be able to assess the heart rhythm with the ECG," he said.
"Really, what we want to enable is that every patient who has chronic disease should be a click away from the doctor or a tap away from their doctor at any moment so that they can help provide that consistent monitoring that necessary to keep many of these patients healthy."
Along with the funding, it was revealed that Corey Mulloy, partner at Highland Capital Partners, and and Ryan Drant, founder and managing partner at Questa Capital, have joined the board of directors at Eko.
"Ryan and Corey bring a level of company building expertise. The both of them are extremely veteran investors who’ve both had extremely successful track records in ventures. We're very excited to have their company building expertise. And then also just knowledge of healthcare, and understanding of how to build enduring, long-lasting companies," said Landgraf.
"Those are the key attributes that you want to have in a board and Ryan and Cory have that in spades."
The ultimate vision for Eko is to continue to expand on the quality and quantity of care that can be delivered virtually. And that means investing in building out the operating system for virtual chronic disease care.
"We know that these are some of the most deadly, most costly conditions to manage and treat and we think there's a massive opportunity to make a large fraction of that care virtual. That can increase the frequency with which patients can be monitored, increase the frequency with which we can manage their care, change their care plans, and hopefully, as a result of that, reduce mortality and reduce costs associated with that care," Landgraf told me.
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Eko Devices has developed the world's most intelligent stethoscope - Eko. The company has paired the oldest and the newest tools in the medical toolkit - the stethoscope and the smartphone – to help address two of the most pressing challenges of our time: $750 billion in annual healthcare waste and a cardiovascular disease crisis that affects 1 in 4 of the world population.
Eko is an attachment for the analog stethoscope that enables a clinician to amplify heart sounds and syncs to an accompanying smartphone application. From their smartphone, a clinician can send the digital heart sounds to our cloud-based algorithm or share them with another physician, all in real time. In just seconds, and with the accuracy of a cardiologist, we can provide a clinician with an analysis of a patient's heart sounds and the support needed to make the most informed point of care decisions possible.