An electronic revolution in the doctor’s bag

The stethoscope revolutionised the way doctors interacted with their patients and became a symbol of the profession. Now that electronic alternatives are becoming a common sight on the wards, maybe it’s time to update our idea of what a doctor is for?

“Every medical student remembers the day when they bought their first stethoscope,” says Professor of Cardiology Petros Nihoyannopoulos. “They remember the name of the stethoscope, they remember the colour of the stethoscope – and possibly the day when their first stethoscope was stolen and replaced by another one.”

But in Hammersmith Hospital in London, where Dr Nihoyannopoulos works, the noble instrument is under threat from a little white box. Looking like a smartphone circa 2005, the handheld ultrasound scanner is connected by wire to a probe which is laid against a patient’s chest. Flip the lid of the scanner and a black and white image appears on the scanner of the patient’s heart. At the push of a button the patient’s blood flow is highlighted, if all is well, in red and blue. An abnormal flow is painted in lurid yellows and greens.

“Every single consultant and junior doctor is hooked on these devices,” says Nihoyannopoulos. “When one breaks down or goes missing, it’s a disaster – everyone is panicking. It’s like when you lose your stethoscope as a medical student.” Lots more here An electronic revolution in the doctor’s bag.

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