Say Good Bye to Your Stethoscope


As a nursing student, what is one of the first pieces of equipment you rushed out to buy?  Of course a stethoscope. You wanted the best one and the most fashionable color to drape around your neck.  Well, the times they are a changing.  We are starting to look at the day when that tool will go by the wayside.

A recent clinical trial conducted at Orlando Health is looking into the use of a device called HeartBuds.  This device incorporates the use of smartphone technology enabling the ability to record and store sounds.  The recorded sounds can then be shared if needed.  This new way of auscultation of heart and breath sounds could change the way we approach a patient exam in the future.

What is HeartBuds?

HeartBuds is a small portable plastic listening device.  This little device is shaped much like the head of your traditional stethoscope.  Now instead of a rubber Y-tube that you plug into your ears, you plug into a smartphone.

Once you activate the app the sounds from the handheld device will play through the smartphone speaker.   The app also picks up images that appear on the screen showing the heart rhythm corresponding to the sound.

How amazing that with this technology you can control the volume and share with the patient.  This is a great time to discuss the sounds with the patient in real time.  Recorded sounds can be saved for future reference.

You ask how does it compare to traditional stethoscopes?

The device was tested in a clinical trial by Dr. Julio Schwarz, a cardiologist at the University of Florida Health.

He tested the effectiveness by comparing the device to three other stethoscope models.  The FDA-approved class I and Class II stethoscopes, as well as the commonly used disposable one, were used.

He presented the findings comparing the effectiveness at the November 2015 The American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions held in Orlando, Florida.

A total of 50 patients were examined and results compared to traditional stethoscopes and the HeartBuds.

The results of the study were impressive.  They showed that the HeartBuds smartphone-based device performed as well as the more expensive and commonly used stethoscopes for detecting heart murmurs and carotid bruits.

This device has also proved to be an invaluable teaching tool.  When teaching healthcare students in listening for heart sounds in real time.

They can also be used at home.

Imagine having this device while you are pregnant.  You can listen to your babies heart and record the sounds.  You can then share with friends and family the sounds from in the womb.

Athletes find it a useful tool to track their condition and performance,

Of course, only trained health care providers can use HeartBuds as a diagnostic tool,  Imagine being able to monitor a chronic illness like COPD and heart failure changes in condition at home.  As someone with AFib, this would be a great tool to have.  I could take a recording of my heart at home, upload them and send them to my cardiologist.  The possibilities are endless.  The future of this technology is just beginning to come into view.

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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