Simple Technology Saving Lives: Remote Auscultation

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Varun Bide, a first year MBBS student in Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College, Sion, India. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


I recall the time when I had pneumonia. I was diagnosed very late and thus took a while to recover, as I failed to see it as anything other than a routine cough until it got very serious and gave way to high fever. And also, because I was too lazy to visit my doctor, who was a couple of hours away by car. So, I resorted to telemedicine and gave him my symptoms over the phone, which at first sounded like-you guessed it-a routine cough. After a couple of weeks of taking cough syrup, when I became serious and had to be examined by him in person, it didn’t take him more than two minutes to listen to my breath sounds and tell me I had a severe case of pneumonitis.

While my procrastination was certainly to blame for this late discovery, I also had a lot going on at the time, and couldn’t take 5 hours off on a working day. And so, a thought struck me: what if he could auscultate me remotely, over the internet?

I looked into it, and apparently remote auscultation is a thing. There already exist remote stethoscopes in development, which pair with your smartphone and allow you to send your breath and heart sounds to a physician remotely via the internet. An example of this is the StethoMe® smart stethoscope, which even uses AI to enhance its functionality.

And there are multiple advantages to this. Telemedicine will be a lot more accurate and effective (misdiagnosis due to lack of information-one of its biggest problems-can be solved to a great extent). Quality healthcare can be extended to remote areas, where setting up a telehealth center is much easier and cost effective, and doctors can tend to patients from hundreds of kilometers away (although this will require diagnostic equipment for more than just auscultation). Geriatric patients with respiratory or heart problems can reduce the frequency of their hospital visits by sending doctors their heart and breath sounds. And also, if artificial intelligence proves to be accurate, patients might be able to identify and treat routine problems without the help of a physician at all. This will help decrease the load on physicians and allow them to focus on severe or unusual cases. Although this point is largely controversial and cannot be discussed until some concrete conclusions are reached by extensive testing.

Technology has been crucial to the growth of medicine. It has helped solve problems which we could only dream of solving. And the concept of technology revolves around innovation; we often hear “smart solutions” in the slogans of tech companies. Remote auscultation holds the promise of being such a smart solution by using the connectivity that the internet offers, for expanding the reach of healthcare to places that lack it. It has the potential to save lives; just the sound of a heart beating or lungs breathing can make a difference.

References

  1. https://www.imedpub.com/proceedings/opportunities-for-domestic-monitoring-of-children-with-an-electronic-stethoscope-with-automatic-auscultation-sound-analy-5300.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3044891/

About the author

Varun Bide is a first year MBBS student in Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College, Sion. He was part of the symposium team of his college, and has been awarded for best presentation. He has also edited and compiled numerous videos and posters for the college council, and has won prizes in the Science Olympiad Foundation’s National Cyber and Science Olympiads. He is interested in the fields of both technology and healthcare, and aims to be a doctor that makes full use of the technological advances to benefit the world of medicine.

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