Wellesley Doctor Listens and Learns

By Gail Osgood

Raymond Murphy has devoted much of his 40-year medical career to trying to improve the stethoscope, a 200-year old instrument used for listening to sounds within the body. After spending countless hours on research and analysis, writing many articles and studies, co-founding an international association dedicated to lung sounds, and by using advanced technology, he has succeeded.

Murphy created a stethoscope that connects to a computer or any handheld device, and that allows doctors to see, hear and monitor a patient’s lungs and heart rate.

Through a tiny microphone embedded inside the stethoscope, which then attaches to a computer, the doctor is able to view lung abnormalities directly on the computer screen, ideally with the patient still in the room. The doctor can count and measure the number of crackling, coughing or wheezing noises, which allows him to provide a more accurate analysis and diagnosis of the potential problem.

"Current monitoring systems can, at times, be invasive,” said Murphy, referring to catheter procedures. "Computers have advanced to where they do this job better."

So much better, in fact, that Murphy launched Stethographics Inc. out of his Wellesley home in 1998. The medical technology company, which has since moved to Westborough, focuses solely on developing and marketing Murphy’s automated lung and heart analysis products.

The patented devices, which include a 16-channel computerized lung monitoring tool, are the only products on the market that perfonn this type of automated examination.

One Boston doctor has been using Murphy’s advanced lung monitoring tool in his practice for almost a year now. Dhirendra Bana, who practices internal medicine at Faulkner Hospital, uses the product to analyze lung sounds during each of his patients' annual checkups.

“Up until this machine, there has been no way of recording what lungs sound like, we only had a description in a chart,” Bana said.

He went on to say that since it allows lung sounds to finally be heard, the product makes it easier to provide a more thorough diagnosis of the problem.

Gary Brockington, a cardiologist at Faulkner Hospital in Boston, also talks of the product’s ease of use.

He says the tool is helpful for “confirming the presence or absence of lung sounds that may be ambiguous to hear.”

He also says it is a beneficial teaching tool for residents and medical students because they have the ability to both see and hear lung sounds, and confirm heart murmurs.

Stethographics recently received a $100,000 grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund its research on lung diseases. Murphy hopes this significant amount of funding will continue to bolster the accuracy of heart and lung medical diagnoses.

However, substantial breakthroughs in lung disease research is not where Murphy’s achievements end. An avid runner, Murphy, in 1990, wrote a book of essays devoted to long-distance running called “If You Felt Like I Did,You’d Start Running.” He is also a competilive swimmer at the Wellesley Center.

Murphy is chief of Pulmonary Medicine at Faulkner and Lemuel Shattuck hospitals and a professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

He was on the faculty at Harvard’s School of Public Health for many years. He has lived in Wellesley for 25 years with his wife Peggy, an associate professor emeritus at Boston College School of Nursing. The couple have been married 44 years and all six of their children are graduates of Wellesley Junior High School (now Wellesley Middle School), Wellesley High School and Boston College.