For more than two hundred years, the stethoscope has remained a fundamental tool for all healthcare providers. But with recent advances in technology, the instrument draped around your neck may slowly become outdated. Here’s a list of up-and-coming devices that could change the way you assess your patient’s heartbeat and breathing.
Portable ultrasounds not only let you hear the sound of your patient’s heartbeat, but see it too. The devices display an image of the heart on a screen, which can be recorded or shared with colleagues — an especially useful feature in emergencies. And with no earpieces, you don’t need to worry about cleaning your scope!
Some popular portable ultrasounds:
Costing approximately $2,000, this compact device features a single probe that delivers high-quality images for various clinical use cases, from fetal and abdominal, to cardiac, gynecological, urological and pediatric. Accompanied by the Butterfly iQ app, the system lets providers store and share scans over WiFi or via cellular connection. The single probe can emulate various wave patterns, and the app uses artificial intelligence to inform you whether your images are good quality.
Similar to the Butterfly iQ, the portable Lumify consists of a transducer paired with an app. When hooked up to a phone or tablet, Lumify is an integrated tele-ultrasound tool relying on two-way, audio-visual calls with live ultrasound streaming. It also offers video calling and allows the smart device’s front-facing camera to show the position of the probe.
Electronic stethoscopes overcome a traditional stethoscope’s low sound levels by converting sound waves obtained through the chest piece into electrical signals, which can then be amplified for optimal listening.
Eko Devices, a health-tech firm based in California, is developing artificial intelligence algorithms for its devices, using recordings of thousands of heartbeats. Their devices let providers know if the heart sounds received are normal or if there are murmurs present. The Eko Digital Stethoscope, priced at approximately $300, can wirelessly transmit stethoscope audio via Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet.
A Polish startup developed this smart, wireless stethoscope to detect, classify and analyze pathological sounds within the lungs of children. Accompanied by a smartphone app, it is equipped with Bluetooth and employs AI algorithms to detect abnormal sounds — such as wheezes, crackles, rhonchi — in a child’s respiratory system. If the device picks up anything irregular, it sends the results directly to a healthcare provider for remote consultation.
A small, circular device that can fit in the palm of your hand, Thinklabs One amplifies sounds and provides a variety of audio filtering options to better hear heart murmurs, diastolic rumbles, lungs and more. Priced at approximately $500, it works with most headphones and can connect to tablets and smartphones to visually display audio waveforms. It also lets you record and hone in on specific spots in the audio file.
This electronic audio device, priced at $50, attaches to smartphones and allows anyone to monitor their heart anywhere in the world. With the click of a few buttons, patients can download the HeartBuds app onto a smartphone, use the connected device to monitor their vitals and send the results directly to their healthcare provider. Although the FDA has not approved the device, one study suggests it’s as effective as its more popular counterparts, such as the Littmann’s Cardiology III and Electronic 3200. Researchers also found it to be of comparable acoustic quality.
Two researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology developed an analytical technique that can digitally listen and diagnose a wide range of heart problems. The method focuses on EMD, the sound waves produced by a beating heart. It breaks down the sounds of each cycle, isolate the sounds of interest from background noise, and measure sound quality and other variables. A computer program then classify the sounds, determining which specific noises or movements indicate heart problems. Proponents say it removes the element of guess work out of a diagnosis.
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A Superior Alternative to the Stethoscope, Defeat Diabetes Foundation.
Clinical performance of the HeartBuds, an electronic smartphone listening device, compared to FDA approved Class I and Class II stethoscopes, Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine.
Hand-Held Ultrasound And The Stethoscope, US Cardiology Review.