Pretty soon, the stethoscope may only be seen in museums, going the way of card catalogs, black and white televisions, and the princess phone. Stethoscopes were invented in 1816, so it is about time. Finally, the standard device for listening to heart sounds is being replaced by a smartphone application.
A new, portable listening device, called HeartBuds, which is only about the size of a quarter, will be tucked in the pocket of healthcare providers, replacing the ubiquitous draping of the stethoscope around their necks.
They not only detect sounds inside the body just as well – or better – than traditional stethoscopes, but they are more sanitary,” said David Bello, MD, Cardiology Department Chief, Orlando Health and developer of HeartBuds.
Incorporating smartphone technology, the devices make it possible to record, store, and share results. Paired with its smartphone application, it will change patient care, increasing accuracy of findings and facilitating timely exchange of crucial patient information.
When connected to the smartphone, the HeartBuds device permits heart sounds to be heard through the phone’s speaker and displays images that relate to the rhythmic blips on the phone’s screen. Until HeartBuds, only the person listening through the stethoscope could hear what was going on. This new technology allows the patient to hear and talk with the doctor in real time about what is happening inside their body. Then the report can be saved and shared with specialists, as needed.
It seems like such a little thing, but don’t be fooled. This is really groundbreaking and revealing. Findings of comparison studies, presented at this week’s American Heart Associations Scientific Sessions 2015 demonstrated that the HeartBuds performed just as well as most commonly used stethoscopes and much better than disposable stethoscopes. The disposables missed heart murmurs 43 percent of the time and missed carotid bruits up to 75 percent of the time.
This is disconcerting information as disposable stethoscopes are becoming more widely used because traditional stethoscopes are impossible to keep clean. Bacteria that collect on them can be transmitted to patients. This study suggests that patients should not be comforted by the use of disposables. In fact, it might be advisable to refuse them and simply ask the doctor to use and clean the traditional stethoscope before using it on you.
Since HeartBuds do not have earpieces, the spread of bacteria is not a concern. Adding to its appeal, the HeartBuds device is also less expensive to produce. Let’s see, the HeartBuds device work just as well, is more sanitary, and improves patient care over traditional stethoscopes. Not yet convinced this should be in your doctor’s holiday gift basket?
There’s more: They can also be used at home. Athletes use HeartBuds to track their condition and performance. Pregnant women use them to record sound of their babies from the womb and share with friends and family. Of course, trained health care providers are the only ones who should use HeartBuds as a diagnostic tool. However, with this device, patients can record their heart sounds and send to their doctor for evaluation. This is especially important for patients with chronic illnesses such as COPD and heart failure who may have difficulty leaving home.
Really, the possibilities are endless and the future of this technology is just now coming into view,” Dr. Bello.