The COVID-19 pandemic has put healthcare providers through the wringer this year. But organizations and clinicians who are able to innovate and adapt are finding an unexpected silver lining to restrictions and precautions. Dr. Terry Grossman, founder of Grossman Wellness Center in Denver Colorado, is among the growing number of physicians who see the shift to virtual medicine as a strength, not a weakness. Specifically, Grossman uses the Eko DUO to examine his patients, no matter where they live.
"The DUO is a game changer, " Grossman said. "It's helped me to take care of out of town patients and out of country patients. Having the ability to listen to their heart and listen to their lungs, and hear their bowel sounds, that's made a huge difference. And it's helped patients to realize, hey if I get sick, I can just call my doctor and have him listen to my lungs without traveling halfway around the country or the world. "
Grossman Wellness Center is unique in that it's a concierge practice focused on anti-aging and preventive healthcare. It serves patients in the Denver area, but also across the U.S. and beyond. Ten percent of Dr. Grossman's patients are international, which proved a major hurdle when coronavirus restrictions made traveling not only risky, but extremely time consuming.
"Typically, the patients who are from out of town would travel to our clinic in Denver to have an annual exam, " Dr. Grossman explained. "Over the past six months, it's been much more difficult for domestic patients. Many of them don't want to travel by plane, and I don't blame them. And international patients cannot travel. They don't have the option. In order to get to the United States, they have to self-quarantine for two weeks and for many of these individuals it's just not feasible or realistic."
Enter the Eko DUO, an AI-powered digital stethoscope and ECG with the ability to live stream high-fidelity auscultation sounds and ECG for virtual care.
"Eko has enabled me to listen to heart, lung and abdominal sounds for annual exams or executive-type physicals. It's really a hands-on physical that I can perform on a virtual platform," said Dr. Grossman.
Other parts of the annual exam, like bloodwork, can be done locally, with a virtual follow up to discuss results. Dr. Grossman also credits the DUO with saving patients a trip to the emergency room when they were worried about whether they had COVID-19.
"Many people are worried about developing COVID. They are wondering, is this cough I have, or is this fever COVID? We make sure that all of our patients have pulse oximeters at home so they can measure the oxygen levels. Then, with the DUO, I can listen to their lungs and make an assessment just about as accurate as them being in the physical office, without them needed to go to an emergency room or urgent care."
The transition from in-person exams to virtual has been smooth for Grossman Wellness Center. Patients, who range in age from 30 to 95, have all been able to learn how to use the DUO from the comfort of their own homes.
"It's been very simple to learn for the majority of them. The DUO is not complicated to use," Dr. Grossman relayed. "We do a test session to make sure the patient knows how to use it if they ever need to use it in an urgent situation. When we're just listening to hearts, they can do it themselves. When we need to auscultate the lungs or hear abdominal sounds, then we need someone to assist them."
During one virtual routine exam, the DUO, assisted by Eko's AI analysis platform, confirmed a heart murmur which Dr. Grossman picked up for the first time in a patient he has been seeing for years.
"It turns out that the augmented sound available through the Eko stethoscope is better than my high-end cardiology stethoscope that I use in the office," Dr. Grossman said. "I was able to hear a murmur that I'd never heard before. Then I looked at the Eko software and it said on there, 'murmur.' It confirmed what I thought I heard. The AI is quite good."
The 84-year-old patient was referred to a cardiologist, who made the diagnosis of a moderately severe degree of aortic stenosis.
Innovating, adapting and thinking out of the box is nothing new for Dr. Grossman. After serving as a conventional medical doctor for 15 years, he saw an advertisement in a medical journal for a meeting of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and was intrigued. At the time, anti-aging medicine was virtually nonexistent.
"The idea that we could affect the aging process, medically, no one had ever thought of that," Dr. Grossman recalled. "Then this group of physicians comes along and says no, aging is not normal. Getting older is normal, but aging by definition, being harmful, maybe there's something we can do about that. I went to this meeting, and it changed my life."
Grossman decided to dedicate the rest of his career to helping those who fall through the cracks of conventional medicine, and helping combat those effects of getting older.
"There are diseases that are well treated by conventional medicine, from breast cancer to pneumonia or high blood pressure. But there are many people who have conditions like chronic Lyme disease, or chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, or the one disease that everyone in the entire world has, and that's aging itself," Dr. Grossman elaborated. "These are processes that are not very well handled by conventional medicine. When you start to move out toward complementary medicine and you start looking at non-pharmaceutical therapies and things along those lines like intravenous nutrition, hormone replacement therapy, these are the kind of things we specialize in."
Eko's DUO is just one in a series of creative solutions for Grossman Wellness Center to adopt. It is also one that is proving to have value beyond the capability of live streaming vital sounds to clinicians thousands of miles away. There is a metaphysical, emotional aspect as well.
"It really has increased the sense of being cared for," Dr. Grossman said. "The patients feel I can really listen to them, not just physically, but their story. It's made an enormous change."