H.8B Pursuing A Safer Stethoscope
Auscultation using a stethoscope is an essential part of the physical examination of a patient. One of the most common tools used in both inpatient and ambulatory settings, invented in 1816 by French physician Dr. Laënnec, it has been updated through the years. However, given the current climate of healthcare and focus on reduction of infectious disease transmission, the cleanliness of a stethoscope and sanitary practices surrounding it must be addressed and revised.
Current practices surrounding stethoscope hygiene range from not using a protective layer at all and examining patients through direct contact between skin and stethoscope, to physicians using hand gloves as “covers” to place on the head of stethoscopes. Not only is this practice cumbersome, inefficient, and time-consuming, but it also involves sticking one’s hands into a communal glove dispenser that hundreds of people use on daily basis. There are a handful of technologies that currently aim to address this problem; however, they remain suboptimal. The first is “Steth Glove” (https://www.stethglove.com/ ), which draws from the ideas of using a hand glove but extends its uniform architecture from the head to the body of the stethoscope. The second is “StethoCap” (https://www.stethglove.com/), which is a small cover for only the head of the stethoscope. While both are well-intentioned, these techniques remain clumsy to dawn and remove, do not eliminate the need to use shared glove dispensers, and have not gained traction in current medical practice.
The goal of this project is to design safer stethoscopes that will aid in reducing the transmission of infectious disease while maintaining their integrity of auscultation. Possible solutions should focus on ease of utility and storage, fashioned in simple and sleek manner. The current healthcare landscape places an emphasis on physicians to reduce hospital-acquired infections. It is well known that stethoscopes can be riddled with bacteria, so solving this problem will provide a positive impact in reducing nosocomial infection spread, patient length of stay, and ultimately cost of total healthcare provided.