Lehigh University
Lehigh University

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Taking his grandfather’s lessons to heart

Andrew Josephson ‘13 has created a potentially life-saving device using his grandfather’s pioneering medical research. His new app, which can be downloaded to a smartphone, detects heart irregularities. It helped save his mother’s life. Learn more.

Tina Josephson is an avid runner and a physician as well but she never realized she had a potentially fatal heart abnormality until she tested her son’s smartphone app.

The life-altering device created by Andrew Josephson ‘13 utilizes medical research conducted by his grandfather over the course of a 50-year cardiology career.

As reported in Runner’s World, Andrew “got a little bored this winter while waiting to hear from the medical schools he had applied to. So the biochemistry major learned a bit of computer programming, dusted off some of his grandfather’s medical research, created an iPhone app, and possibly saved his mother’s life.”

Josephson’s mobile technology, called ListentingToTheHeart, has earned him national exposure in ABC News and other outlets.

Josephson is surprised at the attention but proud that his success utilizes the groundbreaking research on heart sounds and murmurs that his late grandfather, Daniel Mason, conducted at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. “I feel like I’m bringing his work into the 21st century,” he says.

Dr. Mason produced a set of digital recordings of heart sounds and murmurs, some of them rare, to help medical students learn to detect disease.

“Whenever someone had a patient with an irregular pattern with their heart sounds, my grandfather would grab his recording equipment,” Josephson told ABC News. “He used them as a teaching tool for students and cardiologists and other physicians in the field, anyone who used a stethoscope.”

After teaching himself to write code and doing acoustical analysis on the computer, Josephson extracted the heart sounds from his grandfather’s recordings and loaded them onto a smartphone. The result, according to his website, is a new app that enables a smartphone, when held next to a person’s chest, to capture heart sounds and “compare them to Dr. Mason’s library of sounds in order to identify potential cardiac defects and other conditions.”

Josephson’s invention couldn’t have come at a better time. His mother discovered a potentially fatal abnormality when testing the app. She underwent surgery for a mitral valve regurgitation earlier this spring.

The new app also helps people “learn how to properly use a stethoscope, and how to interpret what you hear—whether you are a healthcare professional or a healthcare consumer,” the website says.

“Physicians’ auscultation skills are declining, but are still valued,” says Josephson. “This year is the first that the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination will have a listening portion where physicians must listen to heart sound recordings and correctly identify murmurs.”

Thanks to the new app, that knowledge is now available for people interesting in improving their health, and for doctors and practitioners as well.

“People inherently want to be healthy, so they’ll purchase technology that helps them reach a certain goal—whether it’s a calorie counter, an expensive and fashionable pedometer, or even a mobile workout guide,” says Josephson. “Economically, mobile medical devices are a cost-effective way for patients to make a decision about their health.

“The general public is happy because they are able to access a little self-help healthcare. Healthcare providers are happy because serious health problems are potentially caught earlier.”

Story by Tom Yencho

Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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