An iPhone app that works as a stethoscope may change the way doctors work in a heartbeat.
So far, some three million physicians have downloaded the $0.99 iStethoscope to be able to monitor the heart rates of patients on the go.
According to creator Peter Bentley, a researcher at University College London, “smartphones are capable of saving lives, saving money and improving health care in a dramatic fashion.”
Bentley, who initially made the app as a “fun toy,” now hopes that in the future smartphones could become mobile vital sign monitors, “fully-fledged integrated designs capable of taking ultra sound scanners or monitor a patient’s blood pressure.”
With some 80 percent of doctors say they expect to be using a smart phone by 2012 — another recent example is doctors who used iPhone 4’s FaceTime chat for a consultation — this inexpensive app definitely quickens the pace of many. Although the heart-monitor app is undoubtedly handy, it does sound slightly awkward to use without a bit of practice.
The developers of the mobile stethoscope app recommend ditching the iconic white Apple earbuds for better-quality headphones, because “heart sounds are often too deep to hear” using the standard ones. Any protective iPhone case you may use could also get in the way, so be sure to remove it. To get a heartbeat, you’ll also have to press the microphone on the bottom of the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3G(S) or iPhone 4 to your chest, directly on the skin.
Bentley also warns that it takes physicians years to learn how to use stethoscopes correctly and that the Apple device’s microphone is smaller than a conventional stethoscope. With a little practice, Bentley promises that you should be able to get a “wonderful, clear sound.”
And just think: more precocious kids can learn to play doctor using their parent’s iPhones.
Sources: Time, Sky News, Peter J. Bentley