Stethoscope – Happy birthday and goodbye?

Goodbye stethoscope

The title sounds a bit funny and harsh, doesn’t it?

I agree, but we’re in the 21st century, and stethoscope is celebrating its birthday, 200th.

You have to admit, nowadays it’s unusual to be using technology that only slightly changed since it was invented.

Imagine if we were still communicating with each other as we did 200 years ago. Even today, we’d be sending messenger pigeons, or in the best case scenario letters and postcards via post offices.

That’s romantic and it servers the purpose, but it’s not the best solution.
I think even Rene Laennec would be surprised if he’d knew his invention is still the main diagnostic tool and a symbol for doctors all around the world.

It’s about time to send this medical “relic” to deserved retirement?

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

There’s no doubt about the fact that stethoscope has its charm and simplicity which enabled this “old- timer” to stay on the throne of diagnostics for over 200 years.

It’s not easy to win the hearts of doctors, and to become their symbol for so long.

You simply need to be special.

“Your first stethoscope, although I have a terrible habit of losing them, is a special moment, it is your first tangible grip on the medical profession. You hold it quite dear. I still have the first one”- Dr. Andrew Collier, chair of the British Medical Association.

Even though it’s simple to use and has that unquestionable sentimental value, classic stethoscope can’t offer a quite lot in this digital age.

Along with advancements in technology, portable diagnostic devices are being developed. I’m awfully sorry stethoscope, there are some new kids on the block.

Dr. Andrew Collier is also aware of this, and agrees that doctors have to keep up with new and better technologies.

These “better” technologies use all the advantages of this new age (wide internet coverage, high mobile devices usage, inclusion of patients in healthcare).

We will introduce you to three different solutions contesting the “throne” of diagnostic tools.

CLINICLOUD

Clinicloud is a digital stethoscope. It’s an invention of Dr. Hon Weng Chong from Australia.

Basically, it’s a modern version of the good ol’ stethoscope. This device is simple, portable and you can connect it to your smartphone.

But even this “small” change brought numerous advantages.

Unlike the classic stethoscope, this device makes it possible to record sound to the smartphone application. This enables continuous monitoring of patient’s parameters through a time period.

As it is simple to use, the device isn’t intended only for doctors and medical staff. Patients can simply listen to the heart or lungs, and then send that recording to their doctor.

From all of the contestants for the “throne”, CliniCloud is maybe the most elegant solution. It doesn’t require too much education and it’s not a big change, but it does offers a lot – possibility to provide care for patients outside the hospital or doctor’s office.

VSCAN

Difference between the classic or digital stethoscope and this portable ultrasound is significant. Stethoscopes enable us to listen to heart and lungs, but VSCAN goes much further. VSCAN can perform shallow scans as well as deeper scans of body tissue.

“HHUS (handheld ultrasound) technology is far superior to the stethoscope in the ability it provides to an experienced user in rapidly ‘ruling out or ruling in’ certain key diagnoses, immediately, at the patient’s bedside.” – Dr. Sharon L. Mulvagh, cardiologist, director at Women’s Heart Clinic

If we’re talking about real “scope” and quality scanning of human body, then this ultrasound deserves the name more than classic stethoscope. Realistically, stethoscope is used for auscultation, and it’s more of a “stethophone” than a stethoscope.

vscan mobile ultrasound used on a patient

Of course, you can’t start switch from stethoscope to a Vscan device .You need time for education and a significant amount of money (current price of a VSCAN device is 8,000$, and it’s estimated that the price will drop to 2,000$ in next few years).

Even though these obstacles exist, many world leading health institutions recognized VSCAN’s undeniable value. South Carolina University, Harvard University, and Mayo Medical School already use this portable ultrasound for early training in their undergraduate curriculum.

When we consider all that has been said, this is surely a device for the future and more and more hospitals will use it for its mobility and raw diagnostic power. But in order to replace the stethoscope, it has to have that “X-factor”. But whether it has it can only be estimated by doctors.

DIGIBREATHE

This wireless pulmonary monitoring system uses pads as sensors and monitors patients lung function. The pads are disposable, for single-patient use, and very cheap.

Risk of transmitting bacteria from patient to patient is eliminated by using disposable sensor pads.

Similar to digital stethoscope, sensors can be used for remote parameter monitoring.

For now, they’re mostly used in hospitals where the system is connected to the monitor next to patient’s bed. As a result, doctors have it much easier to monitor patient’s lung function without even touching the patient with stethoscope.

Compared to the previous two devices, it has the slightest chance of winning doctors hearts, but you never know.

Wrap-up

After you’ve been introduced to these three devices, you surely have your own favorite.

Maybe you won’t throw away your good old stethoscope just yet, but you are aware that this old-timer cannot last forever.

Due to its low price and emotional component, classic stethoscope will stay with us for some time to come.

After that, unfortunately we will bury it, and leave its heritage where it belongs.

In the Legend.

Patient-centered healthcare needs new qualities. Does any of these devices have those qualities?

Only time will show.