Dr. Marco Mercader was halfway through his work day at George Washington University Hospital when he headed to the lunch area for a bite to eat and some company. But his break quickly turned into a scramble to get his colleague emergency care.
“One of the doctors told me ‘I don’t feel so good. I think I may need to go to the emergency room,’” Mercader explained. “He said he was getting short of breath. I told him, ‘I’ve got this new device that can check your heart rate and your heart sounds at the same time. Do you want to try it?’”
That new device was the DUO Digital Stethoscope + ECG, Eko’s latest bedside cardiac monitoring device. It combines ECG with body sounds in real time. Mercader quickly put the device to use, and grew concerned about what he saw and heard.
“We were able to immediately find out that his heart rate was 30 beats a minute and he had a slight murmur. Because his heart rate was so slow we took him to the emergency room. I told him ‘you have a condition called heart block and that’s going to need to be treated right away.’”
At the emergency room, Mercader told doctors his theory, and his advice to put in a pacemaker. A formal 12-lead ECG reinforced the findings of the DUO. Mercader’s colleague was in full heart block.
“They agreed that the diagnosis was correct,” said Mercader. “He went on to get a pacemaker and he did very well through the procedure and his follow-ups. He’s totally recovered and very thankful to have had a device to quickly diagnose his problem.”
Mercader is thankful for being in the right place at the right time and he appreciates how easy it was to incorporate the DUO into his daily routine. He’d received it just days before the scare in the lunch area. An advantage of the DUO is how portable it is, so clinicians can easily screen patients and gather powerful data compared to existing tools.
“I had it for about ten days before this happened. I got the device, I learned how to use it, and I started using it right away on my patients. It was very intuitive. It was easy to pair with my phone, making it possible to look at the electrocardiogram and heart sounds on the Eko App. All the features are very easy to use.”
Things could have turned out much differently for Mercader’s colleague, who is 80 years old and semi-retired. “This condition of heart block is common among his age group and is very serious. If the electrical systems stop working, the patient can die or have collapse. We were able to prevent him from having further problems because of the speed of treatment.”
Mercader has taken to carrying the DUO with him virtually everywhere he goes. It’s with him at work, at home, in the car, and in the classroom. Not only is he a cardiologist, but Dr. Mercader is a Professor of Medicine at George Washington University, and the director of Electrophysiology Research.
“The DUO is perfect for people learning about heart sounds, who don’t specifically know the details of what to listen for, and how to listen. It’s easier to explain to them how to listen when using the visual feedback on the Eko App,” Mercader explained. “Having the electrocardiogram attached to the heart sound is a very good idea because many times you need both pieces of information.”
Now, Mercader uses the DUO to show medical students conditions like heart murmurs during bedside rounds. He is thrilled to be able to save recordings and electrocardiograms to show people later, which is something he couldn’t do before.
“With heart sounds, you used to listen and that was it. Now with Eko you can save and record for demonstrations or share with other doctors. The fact that it’s readily available is great.”
It’s not just the DUO’s ease of use and effectiveness as a diagnostic and teaching tool that has won Mercader over. He notices and appreciates all the small conveniences, such as preselected sound filters, quick charging, and long battery life. He likes being able to disconnect the earpieces that come with the DUO and still record the heart sounds and ECG with the Eko App. Looking at the data on his phone as it comes in is extremely useful too.
“It’s more audible and easier to see,” he said. “Size matters.” At the same time, Mercader loves that the DUO itself is so small.
It is remarkable that something the size a flip phone can deliver such powerful information about the heart. Eko combined a cart full of medical devices into a portable screening tool that can fit in any clinicians pocket.