The telehealth company Caregility has turned to Eko Connect smart stethoscopes in a move that speaks to the rising importance of virtual exams in the healthcare system as a whole. The fledgling partnership between Caregility and Eko means that users of Caregility’s iConsult application can use Eko’s stethoscopes to listen to lung, heart, and other body sounds during virtual physical examinations.

This union meets a rising need; virtual healthcare visits have surged in recent years. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), virtual visits in the U.S. skyrocketed from 2019 to 2020, with a 6,000 percent increase. While that staggering number needs to be viewed through the lens of the coronavirus pandemic, the trend remained on an upward trajectory as COVID-19 fears abated. The HHS reports that the number of health centers that offer virtual visits climbed 130 percent between 2019 and 2022 when vaccines were widely available and lockdowns ceased.

What do Eko and Caregility bring to these virtual visits? During an iConsult session, caregivers can perform stethoscope examinations that produce real-time electrocardiogram (ECG) and phonocardiogram (PCG) waveform visualizations. The Eko stethoscope is wirelessly connected to a tablet or other device, where the live-streamed data integrates with Caregility Cloud telehealth platform. According to Caregility, they host millions of virtual visits each year and support over 1,300 hospitals and a myriad of healthcare systems.

Eko’s Chief Strategy Officer Jason Bellet says, “By marrying our Eko Connect solution with Caregility’s virtual care platform, we’re redefining the virtual physical exam experience for hundreds of health systems, thousands of clinicians, and millions of patients.” Caregility’s Chief Strategy Officer Peter McLain says, “Our partnership addresses a key component missing from most virtual exams: auscultation. The ability for care teams to easily and accurately assess a patient’s body sounds in real-time will have a meaningful impact on our hybrid care delivery models, including telenursing, tele-rounding, tele-ICU, and at-home care.”

Alongside the rise of telehealth use, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) heralds a “coming era of a new auscultation system for analyzing respiratory sounds.” The NIH cites digital innovations that overcome the limitations of conventional stethoscopes, which don’t allow clinicians to store and share sound readings of patients. Further, the NIH posits that the ability to analyze these sounds with the help of AI offers greater accuracy in diagnoses, while wireless and wearable stethoscopes can help bring care to patients who live in underserved areas that have a shortage of doctors.