Stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and thermometers…these staple healthcare tools are familiar to everyone who has ever had a doctor’s appointment. They are effective and reliable, but is there a chance these devices could disappear in the coming years? Some experts have said, with the emergence of new technologies, these tools will no longer be of use to medical providers.
[caption id="attachment_3063" align="alignright" width="400"] Could this be the 21st century version of the stethoscope?[/caption]
Stethoscopes were invented by the French in 1816 to amplify sounds from the heart, lungs, abdomen, and other pulse points in the body. Disposable stethoscopes cost less than $25, and are frequently used and worn by medical providers around the world. However, portable ultrasound devices may slowly take the place of stethoscopes. Ultrasounds use sound pressure waves to project images from inside the body. Instead of simply listening for abnormal sounds with a stethoscope, providers can now easily see if the heart is beating properly, or if there is fluid in the lungs of a patient, making the stethoscope’s function less helpful.
Smartphone applications are also starting to take the place of blood pressure cuffs, pulse checkers, and other traditional devices. Some “apps” offer on-the-spot pulse readings, while infrared devices that plug into smartphones can now take temperatures. These measurement methods will undoubtedly benefit telehealth patients; providers that have access to these reported vital signs feel more confident in their analysis and treatment plans.
But don’t throw your old tools away just yet - we still have a long way to go with integrating technology into medicine. New gadgets, like the ultrasound machines, require extensive training and present a much more expensive option for healthcare facilities to implement. Nevertheless, with all of these new innovations, it will be interesting to see where the future of technology takes us!