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What are the new findings?
An easy way to convert your stethoscope to a digital stethoscope without harming it.
How might it impact on healthcare in the future?
Facilitate auscultation while wearing personal protective equipment.
Telemedicine—auscultate from distant location.
Medical education—allows simultaneous auscultation by multiple people and for better learning experience.
COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with unique challenges. One of them is evaluating patients with lung pathologies. Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) (especially coveralls), because of covering of ears, precludes use of one of the time-tested tools of patient assessment—the stethoscope. Because of this, rapid assessment of patients at multiple points of time is affected. To overcome this, use of bedside ultrasonography has been advocated1 ; however, ultrasonography is costly and requires additional training. Also, the availability of ultrasonography is not universal. Besides, there is no easy alternative for detection of wheeze and evaluation of symmetry of breath sounds, both of which have therapeutic implications.
One of the ways around is to use electronic stethoscopes, but they are too costly for mass deployment, with a price averaging around US$500 from the established brands.2 3 We have developed a low-cost system to convert user’s existing stethoscope to a digital one without damaging it: do-it-yourself (DIY) digital stethoscope. The system consists of a microphone attached to the stethoscope, custom-built Android-based app available on Google Play Store4 and headphones. We present here the development and validation of this frugal innovation.
Material and methods
A digital stethoscope requires a sensor to collect the sounds, a processor and a playback system. We tried various permutations and combination of multiple sensors (electret vs micro-electro-mechanical system vs piezoelectric) in different configurations (directly applied to skin vs within the chestpiece vs within the tubing of the stethoscope vs at the ear tip). For our model, we decided to use an electret microphone (eg, collar mic) at the earpiece of the stethoscope. …
Contributors AgJ was involved in conceptualisation, development and testing of the device, and wrote the paper. RL was involved in conceptualisation, development and testing of the device, and contributed to writing the manuscript. RS was involved in conceptualisation, development and testing of the device, and contributed to writing the manuscript. PS was involved in testing of the device and contributed to writing of the manuscript. ArJ and TG developed the app and contributed to writing the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.