Kanata biotech firm unveils touchless stethoscope system

AusculSciences
John Phillips of Kanata's AusculSciences displays the firm's technology. Photo by Mark Holleron

A Kanata biotech company says it’s developed a device that allows doctors and nurses to listen to a patient’s heart and lungs while maintaining physical distancing – an innovation that enables important medical treatment while helping to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

AusculSciences makes sensors that help detect coronary artery disease by listening for sounds of “turbulence” that can indicate blockages in the flow of blood from the heart. The company says it has modified its technology to allow doctors and nurses to listen to the sounds of a patient’s heart, lungs and other internal organs from a safe distance of more than two metres.

The system, known as Auscul-X, features six sensors that are attached to a patient’s torso. Medical professionals can listen to heart and lung sounds either through earbuds connected to a control module or wirelessly through a smartphone, tablet or computer.

The company says the technology will limit the number of times doctors and nurses have to come within an arm’s length of patients who may be infected with the coronavirus, reducing the number of times they need to change in and out of personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns.

“This is an important advancement with the COVID-19 crisis and represents a major advance in improving the safety and cost efficiency of direct patient assessment,” cardiologist Dr. George Vetrovec, chairman emeritus of the Pauley Heart Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a statement.  

“Auscul-X is a needed and important addition to infective patient management but is far from a single event item ​– there are extensive opportunities for this technology to balance cost with reduced protective gear use, leading to potentially better outcomes.”

AusculSciences, which has already raised more than US$10 million from investors to develop its original technology, says it plans to test the new system on critical care patients in a study at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute beginning early next month. The company says it hopes to have Auscul-X ready to go to market by the third quarter of this year.