The stethoscope is among the most vital tools doctors use when treating their patients. But nowadays, the healthcare industry has been taking in revolutionary developments with the help of technology through digitizing this process with the digital stethoscope. This article will get to know more about the digital stethoscope and discover its features and benefits for both doctors and patients. Read on.
What Is A Digital Stethoscope?
Generally speaking, the stethoscope pertains to the acoustic medical device for auscultation or the method of listening to the internal sounds of the human body. It typically has a small disc-shaped resonator placed against the skin and one or two tubes connected to two earpieces.
The capabilities of digital technology and the stethoscope merge with the digital stethoscope. What is a digital stethoscope, and what does it do?
Also known as the electronic stethoscope, a digital stethoscope can convert an acoustic sound to electronic signals, which can be further amplified for optimal listening. These electronic signals can further be processed and digitized to transmit to a personal computer or a laptop.
Digital stethoscopes can overcome the low sound levels by electronically amplifying the body sounds. They convert the acoustic sound waves procured through the chest piece into electronic signals, which can then be amplified for optimal listening.
Those are basically what a digital stethoscope is. To provide you with more ideas about this medical tool, let us look at its features coming up next.
Features Of The Digital Stethoscope
A digital stethoscope aims to keep the look and feel of an acoustic stethoscope and enhance listening performance. Additionally, high-end digital stethoscopes offer more sophisticated capabilities such as audio recording and playback, which the regular stethoscope may be limited.
Digital stethoscopes also provide visual chart results by connecting to an off-instrument display such as a computer monitor. This advanced feature increases the diagnostic capability of the physician. In other words, digital stethoscopes can maintain the look and feel of the acoustic stethoscope while improving the performance digitally with small and low-power solutions.
Here are the features of digital stethoscopes.
Audio Signal Path
The essential elements of digital stethoscopes are the sound transducer, the audio codec electronics, and the speakers. Converting sound into an analog voltage, the sound transducer is the most critical piece of the process.
It would be best to condition the analog voltage before getting converted into a digital signal using an audio codec.
Once in the digital domain, a microcontroller unit, MCU, or digital signal processor or DSP facilitates signal processing, including ambient noise reduction and filtering, limiting the bandwidth to the range for cardiac or pulmonary listening. The processed digital signal is converted back to analog by an audio codec.
A headphone or speaker amplifier conditions the audio signal before outputting to a speaker.
Furthermore, the stethoscope must also be most sensitive to cardiac sound in the 20Hz to 400Hz range and pulmonary sound in the 100Hz to 1,200Hz range.
Data Storage And Transfer
The moment the captured sound is converted to an analog voltage, it can be sent out via an audio jack and played back on either a computer or through the digital stethoscope. You can likewise manipulate the captured sound digitally. It can be stored in the stethoscope using internal or removal non-volatile or NV memory like a flash and then played back through the speakers of the stethoscope. Or it can be transferred to a computer for further analysis. Adding a real-time clock takes charge of tagging the recording with time and date. The sound is usually transmitted with a wired interface, such as USB, or a wireless interface like Bluetooth or another proprietary wireless interface.
Display And Backlighting
You can find digital stethoscopes with small and straightforward displays, while others have buttons and LED indicators. Backlighting for the display is necessary since the ambient lighting is often at a low level during the process. The small display requires only one or two white light-emitting diodes or WLEDs controlled by an LED driver or an electroluminescent or EL panel controlled by an EL driver. You can eliminate most user-interface buttons by adding a touch-screen display and controller.
Many digital stethoscopes use either one or two AAA 1.5V primary batteries. This design necessitates a step-up switching regulator to increase the voltage to 3.0V or 5.0V, depending on the circuitry utilized.
Once a single 1.5V battery is installed, the switching regularly will probably be turned on all the time, enabling low quiescent current to become a critical factor for extended battery life. The longer the battery life, the more convenient it is to use a digital stethoscope, and the closer the experience will be to the acoustic stethoscope.
When using two 1.5V batteries in series, the switching regulator can be left on all the time or shut down when not in use. If the circuit operates from 3.6V down to 1.8V, a switching regulator may not be required. Therefore, costs are required, and spaces are saved.
You can use rechargeable batteries such as a single-cell Li+ battery with the digital stethoscope. If you choose a rechargeable battery, you will need a battery charger. Moreover, a fuel gauge is the most recommended solution to precisely determine the remaining battery life. If the battery is removable, authentication is likewise required for safety and aftermarket management.
Benefits Of Using A Digital Stethoscope
Now that you have learned what constitutes a digital stethoscope let us know the benefits of using a digital stethoscope, categorized according to the doctor’s specialty.
Benefits For The General Practitioner And Primary Care Professionals
The advantages of the digital stethoscope for the general practitioner and primary care professionals include being major agility and precision in the diagnosis, an interdepartmental derivation, and reducing the home visits since the nurse can perform the process and send the results to the doctor. Using a digital stethoscope also improves the follow-up of the patients.
Benefits For Pediatricians
Parents can also listen to the auscultation since the digital stethoscope features an external loudspeaker. Like the electronic blood pressure monitoring device, parents themselves can apply the digital stethoscope to the child.
Digital stethoscopes also offer more precision in the diagnosis. Pediatricians can obtain the second immediate option from another physician since the device allows simultaneous listening and sending to other devices.
Benefits For Consultations And Private Clinics
For consultations and private clinics, digital stethoscopes improve telemedicine, efficiency, and image and introduce teleconsultation. In other words, digital stethoscopes allow for immediate attention to the patient since the doctor’s assistant can do the auscultation and send data to the doctor.
Indeed, digital stethoscopes are proving to be among the significant advancements in medical technology, together with other devices. Suppose your hospital or clinic still uses the acoustic stethoscope. In that case, it is time that you invest in digital stethoscopes right now for the advantage not only of the patients but also the physicians and the entire healthcare industry.